Rebuilding My Boundaries After Abuse

Apr 16th, 2011 | By | Category: All Posts, Guest Blog

by Linda Pittman

Throughout my healing journey from childhood sexual abuse, I have heard a lot about the need for “healthy boundaries”. How do I know if my boundaries are healthy? What are they and how do I measure mine? How do my boundaries compare with someone who has not been sexually abused? These were baffling ideas and questions.

As a child, I could not defend myself against abuse from a bigger and stronger adult. If I tried to defend myself, I was punished more or overpowered. So I learned to submit in hopes that it would be less painful. My physical boundaries were breached over and over. My submission was a coping mechanism to help me through each act of abuse. I learned to allow others to do what they wanted and began to believe that I had no rights over my body. My mental and spiritual boundaries were also breached because the shame of my abuser was transferred to me (I was bad) and I was not being “good” as defined by my church. Over and above my beliefs, I felt the bad inside of me. I had no say in those areas.

Even after I told about my abuse and I was no longer available to my abuser, I had no one to teach me that I had rights over my body— that it was okay to say no. As a consequence, I faced many sexual situations that I did not wish to participate in, but felt I had no choice but to do what the other person wanted. That response had been conditioned in me for many years and I knew no better. I felt even more guilt and shame since it seemed no one had forced me to do those things. I became pregnant when I was seventeen.

The first time my fiancée grabbed my arms and shoved me during an argument, my reaction was perfectly normal; I became angry and wanted to leave and never see him again. Good, right? Except that my mother let him in against my wishes because he brought me flowers and candy and seemed truly sorry. She could have helped me by saying that no physical force against me was acceptable. I trusted her judgment since she was my mother and I was sure that she would not steer me wrong.

Years later, I found out that she knew about my abuse and did not protect me or my siblings. Now, instead of standing up for me, she urged me to give him another chance. He got plenty of other chances during our fourteen and a half years marriage. When I ran out of chances to offer him, it was only to protect my children and not myself.

Why did I think my children deserved to be protected but I didn’t? I was constantly yelled at, belittled, bullied and punished for what I did and did not do. I was told I was worthless and that no one would want me. I was the sweet, compliant person who thought more highly of everyone else. My self worth could only be measured by his or her attention and compliments. If I received a compliment, I did not believe it; they were just being nice and I didn’t believe I deserved to be treated so nicely. They must have been saying those things out of pity or else they were nicer people than me. I avoided being close to anyone as I struggled to keep myself safe.

So where did the change take place and how did that come about for me? A few years, a lot of dysfunctional relationships and horrible choices later, I learned that it was “normal” for me to say yes to bad situations. As a child, I really didn’t have much choice. If I was corrected or manipulated into saying yes when I tried to say no, then I learned to ignore my comfort. If I took the abuser’s behavior into myself, I learned to say yes to controlling, abusive and unloving behavior. I also learned to feel guilty about saying no, so I was manipulated into saying yes. These were boundaries that were not formed correctly in me. Is it any wonder that others who came along were able to do the same to me?

 I saw the goodness in me and how others had trampled over this goodness and treated me so badly when I had given them everything good—even better than I gave myself.

I got in touch with my anger at being abused and betrayed over and over. I realized that my abuse was not my fault, unlike what my abusers told me and led me to believe. In seeing one of my children victimized, I saw myself as a child for the first time. I also saw my abusive spouse for what he was and not with the excuses I made for him all the time. I saw the goodness in me and how others had trampled over this goodness and treated me so badly when I had given them everything good—even better than I gave myself. I saw myself deserving better and actually wanting better. I had worth and a good heart. Healthy people said the things that I had been feeling inside and helped me believe in me by validating my feelings, thoughts and values.

I had to start off setting boundaries timidly but I did start and a lot of the boundaries were set as a result of my feelings. I was able to see when someone was trying to manipulate me. My discomfort told me the truth. I learned to trust my “gut feelings” more and more. As I did these things, I was learning to set my personal boundaries.

I learned the signals that indicate a need to set my boundaries.

  • Did I feel discomfort or pain?
  • Did I continue to stay around others that made me feel uncomfortable?
  • Did I feel that by saying no I would disappoint someone?
  • Did I feel bad about saying no?
  • Did I say yes when I felt inside I wanted to say no?
  • Did I say yes to something that went against my true beliefs and feelings?
  • Did I say yes because I was afraid they would leave me/ reject me?

I learned that boundaries are not just physical such as “Do not get too close to me”. Boundaries are emotional such as, “I refuse to allow myself to be upset by you”. Boundaries are also spiritual or mental such as, “You can’t tell me how to think or what to say or believe”.

In an uncomfortable or painful situation, I learned to say, “No, I don’t like that and won’t tolerate that.” People are not mind-readers and I had to speak up. I left bad and uncomfortable situations. I learned to say what I wanted and if the answer was no, it was okay because that was what made me feel safe and comfortable. Even when others tried to talk me into a situation that I did not like, I said no and felt okay about it. In abusive or disrespectful behavior from another, I left if they did not stop when I said no. Each no got easier and easier.

People still try to cross my boundaries often, but it is my responsibility to keep them. My boundaries are necessary to my safety and peace of mind. Yeah, my feelings are important to me and DON’T try to talk me out of them. It is a learning process and I’ve still got a lot to learn about myself. But I am so much better at protecting me. And I’m worth it.

Related Posts:
The Fear of Being Re-victimized

Having experienced healing from sexual, physical and verbal abuse, Linda Pittman has found joy in encouraging others in their healing journey and tells people that it’s never too late to start. She’s been married to her husband for twenty-one years and has four adult children.  

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51 comments
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  1. What a great topic Linda! Boundaries are SO important and yet so many of us don’t even know where to start. Someone telling us we need to have healthy boundaries when we don’t know what that means is about as helpful as someone telling us to build a fence without wood and nails. Thanks for posting this!

  2. I found your blog from Evan’s, today and this was right on topic for me.

    I’ve struggled with the concept of boundaries for years. The first time I went to a CoDA meeting, the topic was boundaries and I honestly had no idea what they were talking about. Even after I began to understand the concept, I was stunned at the prospect.
    People are allowed to set boundaries? Really?
    That was almost three years ago. I’ve learned to set boundaries in many of my relationships up to and including ending relationships with those who could not respect my boundaries.

    I am currently about to set a very important boundary – one I’ve been preparing for all winter. It has me really wracked with emotions, so much so that I haven’t even been able to blog about it. It’s been bottled up inside me for weeks and weeks because it feels too big to write about. and the longer I wait the bigger it seems to get.

    This particular boundary is with my father, who also was my abuser. It’s complicated. Isn’t it always?

    Some weeks back, Evan wrote about boundaries and I submitted a possible boundary letter to him which I believe he sent out to his newsletter crowd. (He put it out unsigned, although I told him it was okay to use my blog name). That letter is going to be the basis for the boundary I’m preparing to set with my father.

    So often I find exactly what I’m looking for in this cyber world. Thanks for a great post.

  3. Great blog! I distinctly remember the first time my therapist suggested I needed to set boundaries for myself…I was thinking…what in the you know what is she talking about…boundaries??? I thought, literally, she was an idiot mumbo jumbo talking head shrinker. I get it now…and I am constantly re-evaluating my boundaries, and I am not even as scared to set new ones now…but it is still hard to do; I just know I gotta do it or it wouldn’t be bothering me. Again, super blog!

  4. Great blog Linda,

    You really hit home with this one for me. I too didn’t know what healthy boundaries were and never gave any consideration to how “not” having them affected me. To ask myself how someone else’s behavior affected me was never considered because I never cared about myself or my feelings. I never cared about my body until I started to heal. Thank you for sharing this. Great, great and insightful. Patty

  5. This was great to read – I especially liked the bit about emotional boundaries – not having to be around someone if they upset you… Amazing – it makes so much sense yet honestly this doesn’t enter my head IN a situation

  6. Thanks Jennifer, it takes a while for us to learn about healthy boundaries. I had some help from therapists and I learned a lot from just looking at others and the way they handled situations. I had to get over being timid and afraid and start living without guilt and fear. Yhose boundaries have saved me so much grief!

  7. Wendi,
    Glad you have learned about setting boundaries. We hear about them but there is little information about how to do this and the examples we have around us in dysfunctional families do not help at all. There are many to learn about. It sure would be nice if there was a course entitled Boundaries 101 that we could entoll in! keep on healing and setting them and have a good life!

  8. Patty, how others affect us and our feelings about them are such important clues that signal our need to set boundaries but we have been taught to ignore those feelings or had others tell us that those feelings are not valid. I am glad that you care about your body and are able to have those boundaries that keep you safe and secure. You are an inspiration to me with your witty and wise comments.

  9. Louise, those emotional boundaries are something we do not have a clue about but just realizing that we have had those boundaries destroyed as a child and the feelings that we had were valid can help us to start protecting our minds and bodies. I can’t tell you how many times I was told verbally and sometimes without words how worthless I was. I don’t believe that anymore and people that say those kinds of things to me now get a strong response and the boundaries are held! I can choose to not be upset and I can choose to leave someone behind ‘in my dust’.LOL

  10. Gosh the only boundaries I set were no-one gets near me ever again, my body is my own and no-one gets anywhere near it ever. It’s kept me safe but kept me alone. Now I’m 45 and looking back at an empty life knowing I did only what I could do in the circumstances that once free from the abuse I said never again by making sure no-one could get near enough to hurt me, or so I thought. I’ve been hurt by many people down the years in spite of that boundary. What I didn’t understand when I set that boundary is that there are ways that we can be hurt which aren’t physical. And in some ways those hurts are the deepest ones. And now I’m looking at this mess knowing the answer is to heal rather than to just protect.

  11. Fi, people start over all the time. I met an amazing woman who became a lawyer at 54 years of age. She was an inspiration to me. During my abusive marriage i wanted to learn and do many things but my abusive spouse refused to allow the money to be spent on ‘worthless me.’ Now, I can choose to do things because I have worth and I deserve to be gven those chances in life. I am glad that you are now aware that there are more than just ‘physical boundaries.’ sometimes those mental and spiritual boundaries are the ones that get trampled the most and we don’t even realize it. Keep on believing in your healing because you are a very special and amazing person. You deserve the best!

  12. what a great post! Like you Linda, I thought that I had no choice, and only after decades of abuse by everyone in my life, did I realize that I did indeed have a choice about my life…and that realization was the most empowering thing I have ever experienced. Boundaries are an amazingly difficult thing, and one of the ways I tried to set mine, was to make a list of how I thought/felt/believed etc. and how I would behave if my actions had ZERO effect on anyone else in the world, not my children, my husband, my family, they only affected me…what would I do and how would I act, what would I be okay with and what would I not..and that gave me a basis for what my core boundaries should be, because I had never once made a decision based on my own personal wants and needs without taking into consideration every other person I knew and how it would affect them (I only just realized after reading this post,that I did a boundary exercise, I just thought of it as self discovery to know who “I am”).

    It was soooooo difficult for me to set boundaries, even small ones…my first boundary setting experience was buying and making myself a food that I enjoyed, even though no one else in the family liked it and wanted it. My husband used to get soooooo frustrated when he would ask me something simple like “where do you want to go for dinner?” and I would say “It doesnt matter” it drove him crazy…and all I was trying to do was make him happy, because my wants never mattered….and that pattern was very very very hard to break and very anxiety provoking…but its getting easier, and we still have those same arguements from time to time about dinner, but not nearly as often as we used to. Now I feel much more comfortable saying “I want mexican food, lets go to ____” than I ever did before. It really can start out with one tiny little “me” action.

  13. Amira, wow, what an amazing thing that you realized that all your decisions had been based on everyone else, I found that was true for me also. As you showed in your post we have to start our with small things at times but the more they work the braver we become! Good for you and the progress you have made setting boundaries. Just finding out what heathy boundaries are is a real quest!

  14. Shen, I do not know why but your post just showed up today. I really know what it is like to be on the verge of that big boundary that needs to be set. My heart goes out to you because along with my abuser father who no longer was a part of my life, I had to cut off my mother who could have stopped abuse of my daughter at the hands of my step father and did nothing even though she suspected. We get a lot of pressure to’respect our parents’. You know I only respect them for giving me life (being born), because the rest of the life after that event was horriffic. It is your life and your limits Shen and nothing can keep you from feeling safer than yourself. I pray for courage that you will do for yourself what is needed and I say, GOOD FOR YOU, SET THOSE BOUNDARIES AND REJOICE! :)

  15. Fi, someone told me early on in 12-Step meetings that walls aren’t boundaries. As a child I put up walls to keep everyone out of my mind because that was the only safe place that I had. My body wasn’t safe. It was being abused several times a week for 6 or more years. Boundaries are flexible. Walls are not. My fears of being hurt kept me behind that wall for too many years before I started tearing it down a brick at a time. When the wall was gone was very scary to begin with. My boundaries were set a few at a time with much moving back and forth until I felt comfortable enough to not let others cross those boundaries. When you first set boundaries, people will cross them just to see how much you will stand up for yourself. Do you really mean it when you set this boundary or can I just ignore it and do what I want regardless of how you feel? People testing your boundaries is how you figure out that the boundaries are important to you.

  16. Patricia, your reply to Fi is so good in pointing out that walls are not boundaries! Thanks for your insight because we often can mix up the two! :)

  17. Gosh yes I had the 2 well and truly mixed up – I recognise that I put up a huge wall which I’m slowly beginning to tear down now – that wall prevented me from being physically and sexually hurt but couldn’t prevent me from emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse – and then I put up even more walls, thinking they were boundaries – thanks Patricia for pointing that out, as soon as I read your comment I realised what I’d done and that they’re weren’t boundaries but walls.

  18. Linda and Fi, you are both very welcome. Boundaries became easier as I learned to face my fears and see that most of them were fears of things that weren’t likely to happen again because I wasn’t that frightened child. Walls not only kept you out but they kept me in. I couldn’t do any real growing or healing as long as I was hiding behind those walls.

  19. Hey Linda, Thank for this relevant and worthwhile post: boundaries are so difficult to find and maintain. I totally relate to your hard-work with this – I remember a long time ago, about 13 years, a counsellor mentioning them – I ddn’t have a clue what she meant. It took me about 7 years to understand the concept and begin to use it, I had a real blind spot. But I’m so glad I am getting there now.

    Also – it’s such a shock to those around us when we seem suddenly to develop these muscles and a voice that weren’t there before. I have lost a friendship (or at least that’s what I called it!) and another is distant, but now doing her own healing so maybe that one will survive; while my family relationships have been thrown upside-down – again one family member has cut me off, but my reationship with my parents is much better, much freer and I don’t get so frustrated – they are in their late 60s and early 70s and I am so glad we have a good amount of time for me to authentic with them now before they pass.

  20. i meant ‘be authentic with them’…

  21. Hi Fellow Passenger, iI am glad you are learning to use boundaries to keep you safe. Yes, it sure is funny the reactions we get when we start setting limits with those around us. The manipulators become very transparent to us! Our family can sometimes try to undermine our healing so much. Keep strong and make your way in the world, it’s time to find your peace and happiness! :)

  22. It’s truly wonderful that you are now healing from your abuse. Boundaries are really important. That’s something I’ve been learning. I ended up cutting off all ties to my family with the exception of my little sister. I had to do something in a big way to establish boundaries in a chaotic family. I am also an abuse survivor. I’m 22 and I’ve been healing for 4 years. It’s awesome to read about a fellow survivor’s progress in healing. God bless and hang in there. :)

    http://www.simplylifebyfaith.blogspot.com

  23. Jerelle, yes learning boundaries is really great! You finally learn the right way to stay safe! Glad you are working hard on your healing too. We don’t have to stay in the misery the rest of our lives, YAY!

  24. I struggle with boundaries even to this day. Sometimes, instead of setting a boundary I will just totally block someone out of my life. I think I am afraid to confront people. I am afraid I will always ‘lose’ and be hurt again. But, at least I am aware of my problem and try hard not to cross other people’s boundaries. I think I have the right idea on that front…I just have problems setting my own boundaries!

  25. Nico, there are boundaries and walls. Walls keep others out and keep us inside. Boundaries keep others at the distance we feel comfortable with and they can be changed with time if we feel safer. We do have to risk the possibliity of being hurt, that is what life is about. We can use boundaries to help keep a lot of those hurts from being worse. When people coninually cross our boundaries, that tells us they don’t belong in our life. We have to start small and doing it around friends helps. If you are expeceted to do something and you don’t want to, it is as easy as saying” I’m sorry but i don’t want to do that”.Check out the book section for books on boundaries to help you get started. :)

  26. Thanks Linda. I will check out the book section.
    I am the master at building walls. But, now that I realize why I do it and THAT I do it, I am trying to work on taking some of the walls down that should not be there. I am also trying to set boundaries. It is just so hard to say ‘no’ sometimes.
    Take care.

  27. What do you do when you’ve said no twice to someone you don’t even know (he lives in the same apartment complex, A-7) and he keeps wanting to “talk to [me] alone.”
    He decided I have no one in my life, like a dad or brother–and he’s wrong–but he decided I don’t and won’t stop bothering me.
    Why the hell can’t you tell someone no once and be done with it. What’s all this crap where you have to say no more than once and they STILL don’t know what it means?
    Well I know they’re ACTING like they don’t know, but I need to know what to do to get him to stop doing it, b/c I’m starting to be afraid he’s going to try to break into my apartment. Or something.
    Well, what else should I expect from a guy who’s heard the answer no twice but still won’t leave me alone?
    I’m concerned about this.

  28. Vicki, Sometimes trying to be nice to creepy people only encourages them. If you truly want nothing to do with this person, you will have to be blunt and to the point. I would probably say something like Please don’t talk to me or bother me again, I am not interested in any kind of relationship with you. Then be firm and say I have made myself perfectly clear and if you bother me again, I will call the police. Blunt but you can’t encourage this type with conversation because they have only one goal, which is to get closer to you. Also tell a co worker or trusted friend that is local who will back you up in case he doesn’t back down. Or get one of your EMS buddies to say something to him if he still doesn’t get the message. Hope it helps. You are meaner and tougher than you realize, girl!

  29. Linda,
    Thank you. I got one of my friends to come see me, actually he came on his own. But after the guy saw that I have people in my life he left. That’s good.
    However, I really dislike the idea that he was going to bother me if I didn’t have anybody. There’s nothing I can do about it, except stay far away from him, but I felt the need to say I don’t really like the attitude that they’ll bother someone if they think the person’s without friends.
    I used to think that maybe they couldn’t help the way they are. After seeing how calculated they really are, I’m finding it difficult to keep up the belief that they just don’t know what they’re doing.
    I think they DO know and that I was probably wrong to guess they couldn’t help the way they are.

  30. Oh my goodness! Thank you for writing you thoughts and feelings about your life, I couldn’t even put into words the things that have happened to me, a lifetime of pain. I am 56 years old and just now getting help. I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse at age 7 and repeated forced rapes as a teenager. I have raised 4 grown children and in the process of 2 more who are teens. My daughter came to me, just 6 weeks ago and told me that her adopted father, my husband, had sexually molested and raped her when she was turning 13 and she is now 17. We went to a sexual crisis center and filed charges, we are in the middle of countless life changing events, court, police interviews, divorce proceedings, poverty, loosing our home, etc… 3 weeks later, her brother came to me and told of physical and mental abuse poured out on him over the years, as he suffered in silence. This is my 3rd marriage to abusive men!!! I was so deceived, he was an expert manipulator. I am learning boundaries, I didn’t know what they were, let alone know how to set them, or even feel like I was worth saying “no” to anyone! The road ahead seems undaunting, but each day we see some little event that brings hope and healing.

  31. Dear Linda,
    This is the 2nd blog of yours I’ve read tonight.
    You are writing my life! I had no voice, no choice, &
    no help growing up. I too felt that when people said I
    was pretty they were saying it out of pity. Along with
    pelvic pain, I often get PTSD related hives. Have
    you ever experienced this? This time, I’m so stressed
    that I pick at them (I assume to control the pain) then
    put medicine on them (I assume to soothe the pain no
    one ever did). This journey sucks, but thank u for helping! Rachel

  32. Rachel, I am glad you have come to realize that you are not alone. ((HUGS)) There are many that suffer with PTSD and many other physical problems as the result of their abuse. I have found that the more I heal the less my physical ailments surface. We just don’t realize that tose things are sometimes tied to our abuse and in healing our minds, our body responds to the healig too. Stay with us, there are many wonderful people that share their ideas and journeys that you can benefit from. :)

  33. My upcoming 50th birthday has proven to be my boundary-setting event. Enough is enough is enough and I’m ready to spend at least a few years of my life feeling like I’m allowed to enjoy it and protect myself. This could have been written by me. I’m bookmarking it and will read it whenever I start to waiver. Thank you.

  34. Shanna, I am so glad that you are learning about boundaries! They are life-saving and life-transforming! I know that you and your children will have a better life and now have the hope to end the cycle of abuse in your lives. Keep on healing, it is so worth it!

  35. Valerie, it is never too late to learn the life-lessons that we should have learned as a child. Do not give up, there is so much life to experience and it can be free of pain and full of joy.

  36. How do we get past the resentment toward our parents and siblings? I am the youngest, only girl with 3 older brothers, two of whom are among the most judgemental and negative people on the planet. In particular I resent my mother who failed to protect me and to this day won’t take resonsibility for anything – it’s always someone elses’ fault or problem and I am just a ‘brat’ or ‘too touchy’ or any other words she can use to make me feel as though I am bad for even considering setting boundaries with her.

    My brothers and mother ostracize me (mostly behind my back) and say “I’m living in the past” and “need to get over it”, show no respect for me or understanding of what my life has been like because of the crap I went through as tiny child into my adolescence. When I acted out as a teenager I was just a “bad kid” and a troublemaker.

    It seems they just don’t care because it might shatter the illusion they try to protect of our famly and themselves. I speak the truth and they just can’t handle it, and then make me out to be some kind of psycho. And frankly, it starts making me wonder if it IS me!

    Anyway, any advice on giving up resentment would be appreciated, because it’s just one more thing that reduces the quality of my life. Right now I feel the only way is to divorce myself from them and give up on receiving any kind of empathy from the people I should be able to count on the most.

    I thank God every day I have my own children who love me, even when I don’t fit their idea of perfection. :)

  37. Valerie, this is a tough subject for abuse victims because it involves not only boundaries but it also involves being validated and supported. I had to cut ties with my mother because her second husband (not my abuser) fondled my daughter. I also found out that she suspected this was going on and never did anything to stop it. She knew about the other children in our family and the abuse we suffered from my father and did nothing. As a child I wanted her love and attention more than anything. I never felt I had enough from her and even as an adult I craved a loving mother. The betrayal over and over had to stop and it took my own children’s’ welfare for me to wake up and realize that she failed me miserably. She ended up running away with my step-father to avoid prosecution and hid in the remote areas of Montana the last four years of her life. I spoke to her about two weeks before she died but never saw her alive again. What I learned was that I had value even if my parents and siblings didn’t value me. I gave up the idea of the family I wished to have and accepted the fact that my family was dysfunctional and my parents were toxic people in my life. I learned that I did not need them to go on especially since they had been no support to my abuse and me. I rejected the idea that you just “forget it and put it in the past.” When the trust is broken, and you become the scapegoat, you can’t change them but you can change you. On the facebook page there is a link to a sister website called Emerging From Broken that you might also find helpful and supportive. Dorothy Quimet has had a lot of struggles and victories in overcoming a horrible family system of abuse. ((Hugs)), Linda

  38. The validation and support seem to be the impossible things to attain from my family of origin. Your words reminded me that I have been fortunate to meet and surround myself with wonderful people in other areas of my life who have given me both.

    Thanks for sharing your strength and insight with so many people who need it so much. It’s encouraging to know we can still have some semblance of normal despite the obstacles.

  39. I am so glad to find this website! I married a pedophile after being sexually abused by my father and other relatives so now I am dealing with the effects. My 19 year old son sexually abused his 12 year old sister and I reported the crime and he is going to court soon and may serve 8 to 30 years in prison. Some members of the family are angry and feel that I shouldn’t have reported it since he is charged with a felony and will be on a sex offender registry. They say I have ruined his life. It is so encouraging to read these posts and be validated for protecting my daughter.

  40. Susan, I am glad you found OSA too! I am glad that you are breaking the abuse legacy in your family. The ones who acuse us of ruining their life are part of that abuse legacy. They want to keep the secrecy and are in denial, still. I am so glad you have done this not only for yourself but also for your daughter. This will change her life because you are validating her and she deserves this as much as you. Keep working on uncovering the lies and toxic stuff that keeps you from enjoying healing! It is never easy standing up for what is right when the people in your life want to stay in denial but it is really worth having a life that is full of peace, joy and truth!

  41. Linda,

    Thanks for the encouragement! It means so much to me right now.

  42. Wow, I am 56, and still recovering the ability to set healthy boundaries, some times when I try to explain that I never felt I had the power over my own body, normal people do not really understand.
    I was so similiar, I felt that my body was something I just owed to men, I couldn’t say no. Even when I wanted to.
    I sobered up many years ago, and even sober, I felt so helpless to protect myself.
    I do say no now. And I do have healthier boundaries. I basically had to stop dating as I have found that I am seldom attracted to the kind of man who I could have a relationship with. But I am pretty happy without a man in my life.
    I was verbally, physically and sexually abused by varios family members and it has been a long journey to recovery. But now I am involved in rescuing children from networks of sexual predators in Costa Rica, where I live. I have rescued several myself and am now working with a group to form a refuge for 11 to 17 year old girls who have been forced into prostitution. It has gone a long way towards helaing me. There is nothing as powerful as being that adult I wished had been there for me, Getting kids into safe hands and safe places, saving them from the living hell they are in, has healed so many scars and made me feel powerful and that my experience was a boot camp to save others from similiar experiences to mine. Thanks, the story touched me and I hope to some day have great boundaries! A giant hug to all!

  43. Linda, thank you for giving me the words to describe my feelings and thoughts about my own situation. I did what I had to do, but often struggled in expressing it to someone else.

  44. Robbie, I am glad you have found a place of contentment and being a voice and advocate for others is such a satisfying thing when you can be the adult figure for others that was not there for you. I do recommend that getting books on boundaries will help you to recognize and develop safe and healthy ones. I am glad you have found OSA also. There are so many people that will help and support you here and the healing goes on!! Hugs back to you too!

  45. Tammy, I am glad that you were able to identify with the words I speak. Too often, we feel that there is no one out there that understands how we feel because we felt so isolated in our abuse. Keep on working on your healing, there are many here to share with and gain hope and healing wisdom and tips from. Together we have strength and hope and the world is full of the future for us…a good future. :)

  46. Ill be 50 next year and only 7 years ago was the first time another human my therapist validated that i was abused. Mine was so covert and many players i was the family dog that everyone kicked. Statistics say i should have been dead at young age or prison die to the effects of child abuse. My mother is a master manipulator and in eyes of others she plays the victim and had me convinced it was me. I ve been told i have had depression since childhood as well as ptsd the same amount of time. I only learned of boundries 4 years ago every relationship except one has been abusive. I always thought i was the worst vicrimized human on planet worse human to myself too. Prisons are filles with people like me society throws us away justice system seea us as garbage we need to be head in ways that makea change and healing available whole lives are destroyed suicide etc because no one but those of us who lived it have found people like you brave enough to have found a way to break out of our internal hells and prisons. I still wonder if i will ever be free inside. So glad to meet all of you .

  47. Kady, being brave means that underneath you are afraid but you do it anyway. You do it because you want to live and you want a good life. I am glad you came to OSA as the tools and support here will help you to become free. It is never too late to begin that journey to freedom and it is so worth everything. I wish you the best and know that if you survived the life you lived in abuse, nothing is big enough to stop you now. :)

  48. Thank you for your time responding to my post :-)

  49. I was raised in a house hold where standing up for yourself and having boundaries was considered disrespectful.
    So when the time came where I was independent, I was quickly involved in several unhealthy relationships…. Where I did not even find the person attractive or likeable, but would be with them. One of these relationships ended with me losing my virginity to rape. I knew that I was in danger, but was so messed up with standing up for myself that I ended up in a position where even though I said “no” multiple times, I was raped.

    It’s about 3 years after the assault and since then I have continued to struggle with saying no when I feel uncomfortable. I can relate to the guilt and shame of doing things I don’t want to do but not saying no, no one forced me… Pressured me yes, and after saying no and it not meaning anything I finally say yes.

    So on the outside it’s not rape, but it feels just as damaging, because I didn’t want to.

    I am desperate to get better at saying no. I wish I could flip a switch and be more powerful and have more self respect.

    Anyways thank you for sharing this, I will be reading over that checklist daily.

    -kate

  50. Kate,
    I recommend you read a couple of books to help you in your quest for learning to say “no”. Please read , Nice Girl Syndrome by Beverly Engles as weill as Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend to get you started. Then try : Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren’t by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, and He’s Just Not That Into You, Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo and last of all, Toads And The Women Who Kiss Them, Alexandra Nouri MSW. These help you to recognize how to identify safe people in relationships. For some of us it goes all the way back to our childhood where we had our boundaries breeched constantly by controlling and narcissistic parents or not being taught safe boundaries by our primary caregivers. I do think these will help you to get a clearer and healthy perspective and to realize where your thinking, reasoning or just plain lack of knowledge has caused this to be a difficult issue in your life. I wish you the best and remember there are always new things to discover about us as we come through our trauma and heal. <3

  51. This topic is almost killing me too read. Im right at that point in my relationship where Ive just woke up and said NO I don’t want to be touch no where at all, and Im scared that Im going to lose him, but I can’t live in fear. Ive been hiding this sexual abuse for 30 years and only now has it come up and punched me in the chest and knocked me off my feet. And now it’s my poor Fiancé that is paying the price. Ive alway been that independent women that has always took care of herself and I have just recently lost my job, so now I depend on my other half 100%. And I believe that were this has come from. If we ever get in any kind of fight I always threaten to leave and that always scares him but that has been my security blanket all my life that if things became scary or abusive I could go but now that I depend on him I feel like Im 4 years old and stuck and everything is flooding out all at once. And I don’t know how to handle let alone ask him to handle it. I tried looking for a support group in my area and of course there is none. But I keep reading other peoples story to tell myself Im not alone and people have continued to move on and have normal sex lives..

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