I want to start by saying that I have experienced sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and trauma since early childhood. My incarcerations started when I was 13 years old. The abuse inside facilities started then also. I was a scared, small kid and did not know how to protect myself or how to reach out for help. When I was beaten and raped by my cellmate, I did not know what to do. I felt destroyed, like he took a part of me I could not get back. I blamed myself and attempted suicide by hanging myself alone in my cell. I was given another chance at life when the officers cut me down and brought me back to reality. I was still so sad, upset, and angry and did not know how to deal with it. It felt like the pain never went away.
As an adult, I continued going in and out of prison and I always crossed paths with someone who would abuse me sexually and/or physically. It caused me anger, nightmares, suicidal thoughts, hatred of myself, paranoia, fear of others, and even co-dependency – seeking the love and protection of others I never had.
I felt hopeless and came to expect that corrections staff would not believe me or would turn what happened to me against me. I had no faith in the system because I learned they mostly do not care or help. They are only there to punish you. Most of the time, I did not report the abuse because I was so scared – scared of what the outcome might be and afraid of how much worse things could be if I did tell and nobody did anything to protect me.
The abuse has affected all aspects of my life. It became very hard for me to trust others or form bonds of relationship, as friends or romantically. I questioned motives a lot, but also became co-dependent, never wanting to be alone.
What helped me to start to heal was to write about it in journaling and poetry. Music has also been a helpful tool that inspired me to process some of it. Talking with people I trust, or felt that I could trust, has also helped some.
I reached out to the local rape crisis center and started talking to the advocates there. Feeling like others understand what I’m am going through and just knowing that they’re listening to me helps. Now I try to help others who are experiencing similar abuse because I find that it helps me to help them.
I feel stronger now and have learned to always report abuse, if it’s safe to do so. It’s never my fault. I learned that it does get easier!
*pseudonym chosen by survivorBack