Comfortably Uncomfortable Conversations: Trigger Warning Child Abuse and Rape
It occurred to me only recently that my former abusers might have more victims out there. It took me a while for me to get out of the “why me” “only me” way of thinking.
When you have been abused to the degree I have — and I’ve been through everything from being kidnapped (twice) to being gang-raped (three times) and raped by individual rapists more times than I can count.
I was a child when most of that stuff happened, and so I try to remind myself that it wasn’t my fault then, that I didn’t have any choice but to survive what I was going through until I could be big enough to stand up for myself.
Two years ago, for the first time in my life, when an abuser kicked me I stood up for myself while being arrested for having a panic attack on an airplane.
I yelled and I screamed as loud as I could, because after years of being raped, here was one more white man kicking me when I was down, and I was over it.
I was thirty-five years old.
I was thirty-six when I learned to say “I was raped” for the first time on the public stage, small as mine is. I was thirty-seven the first time I said I was “gang-raped three times.”
Now that I am here, at thirty-seven, looking at the damage that was caused in my life, I am pulled to look at all the people that came together to help me survive expressing my story to the world.
There are so many people in my Krisya Ohana (spiritual family) that I don’t have the word space to name them all, suffice to say, however, that without them I wouldn’t be alive today.
Some of these people are people I will never see again, and others will be in my life for the rest of my days, or theirs. The point however is that many of these people have children, and I can’t help but think “if it can happen to me, it can happen to your kid too.”
Kids are falling through the cracks at an alarming rate, and I am not just talking about this generation, I am talking about every generation before us. There are very few people on this planet who can’t say they have not been abused.
There’s a reason for that, it’s because even though we are finally talking about sexual abuse, we’re not talking about the signs of sexual abuse. We’re still not explaining to our kids that they have the right to have autonomy over their own bodies.
I didn’t know how to tell people I was being sexually abused as a child, because no one told me how. No one in my life understood how to explain to me that this behavior wasn’t okay. No one in my life expected that they would need to teach me, because they assumed that I would be safe with the other adults in my life.
The only guarantee in life is that there are no guarantees. It is absolutely imperative that you talk to your child about the structural changes to their brain that happens when they’ve been abused.
On a chemical level, abuse affects every particle in our bodies, minds, and souls.
It’s important for you on the outside of my experience to hear my story, so that you know how to tell the children in your lives, how to deal with abuse when or if it happens.
It’s also important to teach them how to defend themselves, this is specifically why I think self-defense classes should be free to children under the age of thirteen.
It’s one of the hardest conversations that you might ever have, but if you want to protect your kids from the vampires that feed on abuse, you absolutely have to talk to them about what it means to be abused.
Teach them the language so that they know that they can trust you so that they know that if something does happen, they have a safe space to go to. Teach them how to express their feelings with art, because I have found over the years that art has helped me to express myself when I didn’t have the words.
Understand that abuse causes severe shock, and the shock causes you to behave in ways you wouldn’t otherwise. You lash out, you get angry, you get tired, you hide from the world, or you throw yourself into it. Abuse causes chaos in the body mind and soul, and if you aren’t prepared for those sensations after abuse, it can throw you into an overwhelming loop that is really hard to come back from.
So have the fucking conversation already, because you just might save a life.
Sending all my love,
Devon J Hall