***TRIGGER WARNING: This blog discusses sexual abuse***
My name is Elizabeth and I am a survivor of sexual abuse and horrific trauma. My book: The Sex-Offender’s Daughter tells my story and is available on Amazon.com. As a survivor, I have come a long way in my healing and living with Complex PTSD. I still have bad days and get triggered. I am however always focusing my mind forwards and looking to the future instead of remembering the past. It is the only way I know to be happy.
In this post, I want to explore how we as survivors process our “survival guilt” after abuse. I am not a doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist and I merely speak of my own experience and that of my fellow survivors who have gone through their “guilt”. Living through child abuse of any kind is like being tortured because your life, your feelings, and wishes are completely repressed and ignored. Your abuser or like in my case abusers, are in charge of your entire existence. To break free from that life is like breaking the shackles and embracing a new existence. I often say to myself that I started living when I broke free because until then, I had lived completely by someone else’s rules. Until then, I had no free will and I had no identity.
Our world is huge and frightening after a life filled with sexual abuse. An insular and isolated living in an abusive environment suddenly becomes the opposite, and “freedom” can feel overwhelming at first. Adjusting to a normal life takes time and there is so much “new” to adjust to and accept whilst fighting our internal alarm bells as instinct tells us to shy away from people and not feel anything. I can only liken the feeling of adjusting to normal life as if having been released from prison torture.
Learning to live ‘in my own skin’
My start in processing my guilt of having survived my abusers was to learn to live in my own skin. I had to learn to look out for myself first and that was something I had never considered before. I felt so guilty for not pleasing “others” before myself. It made me hesitant and I found it difficult to trust my own feelings and needs. Who was I to need things? Do I deserve this new shampoo? Do I really need these new clothes for the new season? They wouldn’t have let me buy new things as I didn’t deserve them. How many times did I talk myself out of buying things for myself because my head told me he wouldn’t have let me? How many times did I have to force myself to buy the food I wanted to eat and not what they told me I should eat and how much? I always felt guilty if I ate the wrong things or ate too much because, in my head, I was still back there. The abuse carried on in my head and I let it because it was familiar.
Some say that “time is a great healer“. I think this is true because in my experience of healing and starting over, time made me stronger. The guilt of hearing them in my head every time I needed to make a choice, got less and less hold of me. I started to trust my own instincts and ignore everything that had been ingrained in my head as truth. I was a free woman. Free from the shackles of abuse. Free to live my life the way I wanted to. If I wanted a new pair of shoes, I would buy them without guilt. I kept telling myself in a strong voice that I deserved those shoes and no one could tell me otherwise. If I wanted a whole tub of ice cream whilst watching a movie, I told myself that I could. I was in charge of myself and no one else would ever tell me what to do and how to do it. I was free.
Learning to let go
As an abused child, I learned to live with daily threats and punishments. It was normal for me and I knew nothing else. Once those punishments stopped, I still felt them in certain situations. My guilt for living kept me on my toes for some time after I left. I had to mentally pause what I was doing, close my eyes and tell myself that I was free and no one was going to hurt me just because I craved a second piece of toast for breakfast. Like a child, I experimented with different clothes and behaviors to figure out my place in the world. I searched the internet and read tonnes of books to try and understand the world. I could hear their voices “berating” me every step of the way but I carried on ignoring them. I gained some weight as I built muscles after being more active. I exercised most days pushing myself to the limit just to “feel” my heart beating because I was still not sure if I was dreaming months after I left.
I was very stubborn and headstrong growing up. I refused to believe anything I was told until I could prove it to be true from the evidence. My abusers would tell me repeatedly who I should play with and who I shouldn’t because of x, y, and z reasons. Stupid reasons! I had to repeat their lies and threats and promise to obey. This was one of the first rules I broke and it felt great! I had suppressed my feelings about people all my life and once I was free, I could speak to whoever I wanted to. I am a “chatterbox” and totally opposite from what I was like growing up.
In letting go of my guilt from my parents, I began to live my life. I discovered that I could be so much more. I grabbed every opportunity with both hands and lived my life.
Elizabeth Woods grew up unwanted, in a world of brutal sex offenders, murderers, and inconceivably neglectful adults. She got caught up in a secret sex ring where her so-called father was in charge and loaned her out to vicious sexual predators for their enjoyment. She suffered sexual abuse throughout her entire childhood and desperately tried to seek help from the adults around her. She was let down by doctors and psychiatrists who knew she was being abused but was sent back repeatedly to be harmed again. She was forced to witness several brutal murders. Memories that will forever be ingrained in her mind.
Elizabeth survived in an environment where most people would not and she is now able to help other survivors heal from trauma. Elizabeth lives in a happy home with her husband and children. She has friends all around her and is working a job she loves. Elizabeth has written a book, telling her childhood story: The Sex-Offender’s Daughter: A True Story of Survival Against All Odds, available on Amazon Kindle. https://www.amazon.com/Sex-Offenders-Daughter-Story-Survival-Against-ebook/dp/B0BBSV97VF/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1W93IR8PLCYOH&keywords=the+sexoffenders+daughter&qid=1668277897&sprefix=the+sexoffenders+daughter%2Caps%2C151&sr=8-1