Another survivor, but at what cost …

Khymm Flanders

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October 08, 2016

This interview was agreed to if I changed names and identifying information.

[1]

I work at a residential treatment center that help individuals and families regain their lives from substance abuse. I was sharing my story about being a survivor of childhood sexual assault, living with the PTSD as a result of that, being a recovering addict. After I was done Kelly came to me and in tears she asked if she could check in with me. She told me that my story is so similar to what happened to her when she was young that she feels she can trust me to understand her and not judge her. Kelly was wearing a baggie pair of sweats that were two sizes too big for her. She has on a large hoodie that hid her body posture with her shoulders leaning forward. She had a baseball hat pulled down far on her forehead to cover her eyes when she looked to the ground. Kelly said that she has not told many people her story, but wants to become a survivor of both the trauma and the addiction that has ruled her life for so long.

After what seemed like another fun day in the 3rd grade, Kelly came home from school ready for a snack and watch some TV. They were not allowed to play outside when their mom was not home. Kelly, nine years old, and her older brother Alex, eleven, were latch key kids and being raised by a single mom that worked far too much. Kelly got home before her brother today and ate some of the left over pizza from last night’s dinner. Another sign that mom was too busy for her children, they ate pizza at least four nights a week. She was watching her favorite Disney channel show before her brother came home, she knew that he would make her watch what he wanted. He was older and always got to watch what he wanted. Just as she thought, Alex came home from school and took the remote and changed the channel. She got up and went in her room to change out of her school clothes when Alex walked in her room. She told him to get out but he did not listen. He had walked in on her changing before but he always left, he used to walk in the restroom while she was showering but he always left.

Today Alex told her that he wanted to show her something, but that this was a secret and that if she told anyone they would both be in a lot of trouble. Kelly was interested now in what he had to say. He sat down on her bed and motioned her to sit next to him. Kelly was excited to hear this BIG secret, “tell me Alex, please tell me”, he seemed to be stalling for what seemed like an eternity.

He turned to look at his little sister, who looked up to him and who trusted him, he put his hand on her leg, on her upper thigh to be exact. As he started to explain again to her that she can’t tell anyone, ever. She promised a million promises, and he moved his hand to the top of her leg just under her skirt. She pushed his hand away and he told her “its ok Kelly, I want to show you something that will make you feel good”. The first time was the worst because it took the trust away that she had for her bigger brother. This was the person that was supposed to protect her. This went on for a number of years, exactly how many is unclear because she blocked this trauma from her memory.

[2]

These events did not start to show until Kelly was an adult seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction at another treatment center. She thought she was a bad person for thinking these things about her brother, this was her friend, and they are family. She was not going to tell anyone that she was having these dreams. As these dreams are getting more disturbing she is also having dreams that she did something to a boy she was babysitting. This was causing her to lose sleep and really question her sanity.

Kelly said that when her therapist asked her if she has ever been the victim of any sexual abuse made her so angry, her answer was “NO”. That question also got her thinking with more details. She went to her therapist and asked how she would be able to know if that has happened to her. They were able to work through these memories and more importantly to work through the trauma. She understands now what Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) means, this is not just for returning soldiers.

Kelly now was beginning to understand why she started using drugs and drinking to excess, it was to numb the pain. As her memories began to unfold she wanted to continue using. These are not things she wants to remember. Her therapist tells her that in order to get over this she has to go through this.

According to MentalHelp.net, PTSD and trauma can lead to addiction as a way to stop the memories and feelings that come from the trauma.

(Annonymous, 2016)

[1] #SAAM Sexual Assault Awareness Month

[2] https://healinghandsaz.org/tag/male-survivors/

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