Monday, October 1, 2018

I saw a broken little girl who was terrified and ashamed.

Today, over breakfast with my husband, I had a terrible flashback pertaining to when I was a child. My flashback was about the day when I was in the courtroom testifying against my father for the sexual abuse that he had inflicted on me for many years. Within those long flashbacks I saw a broken little girl who was terrified and ashamed of sharing with everyone this shameful thing that had happened to her. At this age, I very well knew that things weren’t going to be easy, but I wouldn’t have ever imagined that my disclosure would have been as traumatizing as it was for me. I felt as if my whole life was in slow motion and throughout the whole trial and after the trial everything was a beautiful big fog in my life. I listened to the prosecutors and the defense lawyers refer to me as the victim or the alleged victim because I no longer had a name or an identity in a courtroom. I was simply the victim and now part of the statistics for everyone. I watched how they scrutinized my testimony and twisted my words with extended hours of cross examination from my father’s lawyer... Not one family member sat on the side of the bench for me but my family was there rooting and supporting for my father because he was their hero. I also remember and felt the coldness of that courtroom and the lack of empathy for a child. I remember being called a liar or just seeking attention with my disclosure of the sexual abuse. I don’t know who in the world would seek this kind of attention, but I know from my experience that I was terrified and had no gain just losses in my life. My lawyer presented undeniable evidence about the sexual abuse based on forensics and medical investigation. Hours later I finished my testimony and no one, absolutely no one said anything to me. “You may step down said the judge.” No one said thank you for coming forward, no one said you are brave, no one said anything to make me feel better period. Maybe acknowledgement of my bravery or perhaps you did the right thing were words that I needed as a child and would have helped me heal... I stepped down from the witness chair and I regretted speaking out because I lost everything and everyone in that courtroom. Stepping out of the courtroom, I saw my family hugging my father. His lawyer shook his hand and told him “we got this Mr. Rolando.” And there I was alone and waiting outside the courtroom with a social worker by my side more alone than ever and awaiting for the fate of my destiny. A destiny that no matter what the jury and the judge decided on his life, my life was changed forever. I spent the rest of my teenage and young adult years always thinking that I destroyed my family with my disclosure. I felt guilty, ashamed and alone because even though they had wronged me, I loved my family and the pain of abandonment was greater than anything in the world. Now, as an advocate, I don’t regret coming forward with the sexual abuse. Now, I understand that I had no other choice. It was either remaining silent and to continue being sexually abused or saving myself or other family members children from suffering sexual abuse at the hands of my father. My family never believed me but they never left their children with him. They were cautious about him. And if that was the only thing that I gained to protect those children, then the sacrifice was well worth it. Because when something like sexual abuse or sexual assault comes into the open it should be taken serious, it should be an automatic alarm sign for everyone. Even if there isn’t no “proof” we should always be alert and cautious with that person.

Coming forward with the sexual abuse is the most difficult thing to do for survivors.

We think about everything before we come forward with the abuse.

The shame and the concern about being believed, the concern of being labeled and attacked by people and the terrible losses of our own families and friends.

Is it worth the pain and repercussions?

In my opinion, yes we cannot live hiding our truth, no matter what people say of us.

Do I believe that there are always losses. Yes indeed. But our peace of mind is more important than any superficial friendships or family. Those that love us will stand strong with us and those who don’t, you don’t need them in your life period.

Never betray the little girl or boy within and fight fiercely to protect them from the naysayers or the ones who will always choose to invalidate your story.

Speaking out is a very hard step to take for survivors...Support Survivors.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.”

Brené Brown

Thank you for reading.

Cecibel Contreras
Incest Survivors United Voices of America, Inc
It was ME Campaign, Inc

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Many of us live with a past that constantly haunts us.

Many of us live with a past that constantly haunts us. The past creeps up by way of memories, or our 'automatic' reactions (the way we feel physically or emotionally) to certain triggers. I was diagnosed with complex trauma disorder which is a psychological disorder that developed in reaction to the severe chronic physical, sexual and psychological abuse during my childhood. But to make matters even worse, I was trafficked as a young woman and kept chained, drugged and in captivity for 6 months. So this is something that I will never forget no matter how much healing or therapy I have had over the years. Some people might say that we choose to be prisoners of the past. No. I don’t dwell on my past anymore like I used to during my recovery process. I actually think about my present and the wonderful things that lies ahead of my future. My memories or triggers come back to me in different ways. A person’s triggers are activated through one or more of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. For me, a simple smell can take me right back to the past. An unwanted touch. Also aggressive and dominant behaviors remind me of my father and that always triggers me. However, I have learned to manage my illness and I have found happiness in my life. But I’m not going to lie to the survivor community and tell them that memories don’t haunt me because they do, especially when I’m physically ill or when I’m facing family problems. My whole advocacy work is based on being transparent and real. I’m being very real to survivors....There’s no magical pill to erase these parts of our life. We just have to learn to work through the memories or the trigger and perhaps with time we learn to placate the triggers. I have learned to move through them quicker or at times even divert the memories with different skills such as tapping out. Survivors can process the emotions concerning their pasts. Some may learn relaxation techniques to cope with panic attacks. Some use grounding techniques. Others may learn how to avoid them, there is no right or wrong when it comes to human behavior. But one thing that is certain is that with time and work, a person can face their triggers with much less distress.

Thank you for reading.

Cecibel Contreras
Incest, child sexual abuse, human trafficking survivor.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

When a child sexual abuse survivor shares their story.

There are many stories that survivors choose not to share with anyone, not even with the closest and the dearest ones, but when we do share our stories we hope that the response is a positive experience for survivors. So how can we respond well to someone who opens up about sexual abuse? Well, part of it involves learning what not to say to survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Throughout the years, many people have responded to me with questions or comments such as “Why didn’t you report sooner? Did he force you? You knew it was wrong right? It couldn’t have been that bad if you stayed silent. Your father made a mistake and you must forgive him!” These are examples of what not to say to someone when they choose to reveal to you about their sexual abuse. If you don’t know what to say simply listen silently and respectfully or say I’m here for you and I believe you. These words are the most important words to tell a survivor of any kind of sexual assault after they have revealed their stories. Unknowingly, your words can heal them or they can also break them down. The first time that I shared my story publicly was on a blog in 1997. It was a scary moment for me because I didn’t know what kind of response I would get from people. However, the first comment that was posted on my blog after years of people (family) invalidating me was “I believe you” and this comment changed my life forever. It validated my story and gave me a glimpse of hope that I was going to survive the emotions that were awakened from speaking out and that I was going to heal no matter what had happened to me. The journey wasn’t easy, but for once I found a venue that I could be me and share my story. No more hiding from the world. No more hiding from myself. No more silence. I didn’t share my story to get revenge on anyone. I shared my story because I needed to free the little girl within me from the past. I shared my story because I had been walking around all my life with this hurting little girl and she needed to find happiness, healing and love. When someone tells you, “It was ME or Me Too” It happened to me listen and please don’t judge them for simply surviving the abuse however they could as children. Our main goal as children was to survive this awful thing that was happening to us and our goal as adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse is to continue surviving, overcoming or thriving over the memories of a broken childhood.

Next time that someone says to you that they were sexually abused by a father, mother, brother, uncle, sister, grandmother, pastor, teacher, aunt, cousin, the babysitter believe them because your response can help them heal or create more trauma in their life.

Thank you for reading.
Cecibel Contreras
It was ME

Thursday, September 6, 2018

A visit with my therapist

Today I had an appointment with my therapist. It was very emotional and I cried a lot over the things that have been happening to me with my older children over the past month. But my life has been about processing, learning and then teaching others from what I have learned along this path of healing. I’ve been very transparent with my life for the past 23 years of advocating. I have no hidden agendas of selfishness when it comes to serving my community. However, this child who is now a 32 year old adult has had my personal and public apology for not being the mom that she deserved to have when I was just 15 years old. I have acknowledged that I was emotionally and physically absent and completely dissociated from my four older children. I take full accountability for that but not for any other horrendous abuse that they are implying that I committed against them. I had no tools whatsoever to be a parent. My trauma and my pain was all that I saw and nothing else beyond my pain. I began to heal emotionally and mature mentally when I finally hit rock bottom in my life. I started counseling and drug rehabilitation for my addictions. I was never a perfect mother but I did the best that I could under the circumstances that I was going through at the time. Today I’m no longer that broken woman. Today I use my past experiences and my mistakes to help other survivors that like myself are caught in that fog of victimhood and don’t see anything beyond their pain. My life experiences have been more helpful to other survivors than any degrees or any book about trauma in the world. I can talk about child abuse or sexual abuse and the after effects of the abuse. I can talk about being sex trafficked. I can talk about domestic violence. I can talk about being the mother of a child that sexually abused a younger sibling. I can talk about all of these issues because I have lived through all these traumas in my life. My oldest daughter is doing this because they wanted me to completely dissociate myself from my other daughter because of what she did to her youngest siblings when she was a child. She herself was also sexually abused at age 5 by my uncle. Here is the thing, I’m still the mother to all of them. I love them all no matter what mistakes or crimes they’ve committed in their lives. I have validated my younger children by reporting to the police and doing everything that I was supposed to do to validate the victims. The authorities didn’t proceed to arrest her because she was a child at the time of the abuse. That doesn’t excuse her behavior but coming from my professional perspective this was a child that was acting out because of the sexual abuse that she was suffering by my uncle. There has also been a sibling rivalry since they were little girls and they used this against her to hurt everyone involved in their immediate family. I don’t choose sides with anyone but they are all my flesh and blood. What better way to show their bitterness against me than by attacking my reputation and my advocacy work. The very things that I’ve worked so hard doing for many years. I keep looking for the lesson in this whole mess but I cannot find it. Yet my therapist shares with me her own ordeal with her children. How she has been shunned and abandoned by everyone because of these allegations against her by her own children. She tells me “But I’m here now helping you through your pain the same pain that I have suffered by my own children. This is going to hurt you for a very long time but you will make it.” I’m crying uncontrollably and we embraced in a hug. She dries her tears and says; “This is one more trauma that you will be able to speak about and help other parents that are facing through the same problems with their children. You have been transparent with everything in your life and that makes you so much more beautiful and so much more valuable to the world.“ Don’t give up your gifts for the bitterness of others. Take care of yourself, protect your circle, but continue to show the light and the consequences of abused children that reflects years later after the abuse in their own families. There is no book in the world that can teach the true feelings of a survivor of any type of trauma unless you have truly experienced the trauma. There isn’t anyone that can judge you if they haven’t walked your horrors not even your own children.”

Wow! Such empowering and uplifting words from another colleague. I’m grateful for her transparency and for the gift of her wisdom. A gift that only through pain and many tears I choose to continue sharing with my survivor community.

Thank you for reading.

Cecibel Contreras
Chief Executive Officer
It was Me Campaign, Inc.
Incest Survivors United Voices of America, Inc.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Children playing inappropriately with dolls or action figures

Last week I was having a conversation with my older sister about my childhood. She told me that when I was 3 years old I had undressed Barbie and Ken and that I was playing inappropriately with the dolls. At the time she was 9 years old. She asked me “what are you doing?” I looked at her and said “daddy” and my father stepped into the room. I quickly hid the naked dolls under a pillow. From this conversation I had terrible flashbacks and memories coming back to me. Now I remember being sexually abused by my biological father since I was three years old. Children at 3 years old who play inappropriately with dolls or action figures is something that must not be disregarded. We have to observe, ask questions and be alert to children’s behaviors. Some behaviors can be mixed up with normal exploration or child’s play, but sometimes it’s also a child acting out from being sexually abused. I don’t want to alarm parents, but children mimic grown ups behaviors with their dolls. I also remember mimicking that Ken would beat up Barbie because that was another abusive behavior that I was seeing every day with my family. I’m not saying that all children that play inappropriately are being sexually abused but it’s something that we must be very alert. Children use their imagination to play, but how can a child imagine oral sex? Where does that inappropriate behavior come from in a young child? This is something that we as a parent must investigate because we are responsible for their well being. I recommend that every parent or every teacher that witness a child acting inappropriately with their dolls during play with them should ask questions. Act like you are joining their game and ask questions. What are you playing? Where did you see this game? Who taught you this game? Don’t ask them the questions as if they are going to get in trouble. Remember that many sexual predators tell children that they will get in trouble if they tell anyone about the “game". Make the conversation comfortable and let them talk freely without any face reactions or putting words into their mouths. Let them feel safe to be able to communicate and share with you where they have learned that inappropriate behavior. When they tell you something you can either be at peace that nothing bad is happening to them or you can help the child and report the sexual abuse immediately to the police. Sexual abuse is a terrible crime that changes everything in a child's mind. The self-image and self-worth are distorted and destroyed. Children can develop a lifetime of after effects due to the sexual trauma.

Protect Children!

Cecibel Contreras
Chief Executive Officer

Friday, August 17, 2018

Family Betrayal

I will resume my advocacy work through this blog just like when I started my healing journey 23 years ago. I still remember the very first time that I decided to break the silence on the internet. I spent many hours crying while writing my first blogger post. A post that hurts me today as much as the post that I’m writing now. However, even though I was angry and pained by the molestation of my grandmother and the sexual abuse of my father my intentions were never to hurt anyone. My intentions was to create a safe space for me to heal and to find other survivors that like myself had been sexually abused by family members. My intentions were also to spread awareness about incest, sexual abuse and human trafficking by sharing my own story. It wasn’t like these two confused and hurting souls that have intentionally chosen to attack me on Facebook for the few past days. I have been attacked by my own flesh and blood. These attacks have awakened painful emotions and triggers which has led me to return to writing blogs to protect myself. I also want to protect the survivor community from this damaging and negative behavior and to move away from the malice and the evilness that is intended to hurt and destroy me. 

I have acknowledged that I wasn’t an award winning parent but I wasn’t the worse in the world. I made a lot of mistakes because I didn’t have a normal childhood. I didn’t have the tools or the knowledge, especially at 15 years old. I was confused, I was scared and I was hurting really bad. You can’t have a normal thinking process if you haven't had a normal family environment. In my case I had prolonged child abuse and sexual abuse throughout my whole childhood. Human beings form psychological associations and models of the world through their experiences with parents. I didn’t have those wonderful experiences, I didn’t have role models instead I had monsters and abusers. I’m not justifying my emotional and physical abandonment from my children. I’m just educating from a clinical and psychological point of view. Most people who are abused don’t have good interpersonal skills or the ability to establish normal relationships even with their own children. I didn’t turn into a sexual abuser, but I dissociated myself completely from my children plus I had to work and pay the bills. But through their eyes they saw abandonment, through their eyes they saw emotional abuse because I was the only one who corrected them when they would do things wrong because I was a single parent. And through their ears they heard evilness said against me by one of my abusers my mother. I can’t change the past or my wrongdoings. But I’ve asked and begged for forgiveness since 2010. I have helped them in their own challenges with drugs, relationships problems, homelessness and I have tried to make amends with them but they still insist on hurting me. I’ve been assaulted physically by one of my children in the past. But this assault to my integrity and this betrayal is the worst pain that I have felt in my life. 

Now I’m back in the healing mode trying to heal this new wound and this new betrayal. I hope that some day these panic attacks, these horrific thoughts and the unstoppable crying will finally cease and I can be of good service to others again.

Please be patient with me while I regain the strength to move forward. This situation has totally turned my life around but I hope that some day I regain the strength and the trust in the world again.

Cecibel Contreras

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