My Journey From Devastation to Restoration After Sexual Abuse

Aug 18th, 2014 | By | Category: All Posts, Sharing Hope

by Yvonne Ellis

I’d finally hit bottom. There was nowhere else to go. The reality I didn’t want to face was now in my face. I’d spent the best part of ten years running away from the pain of my sexual abuse. Finally, at twenty-two years old, my past caught up with me when I had a nervous breakdown and ended up being hospitalised.

It was a succession of bad events and years of avoiding my past that left me at my lowest ebb. My sister told me that she had found suggestive pictures of my mum, dad and nan. I felt sick to my stomach. This revelation made me feel like I was part of some sick child abuse ring and confirmed all my worst fears that they had known all along what my dad was doing. That same week, someone sent me a card on my birthday saying very derogatory things. It was malicious and sent me into a deep depression.

Photo by Don Enevoldsen

Photo by Don Enevoldsen

I could not cope and felt worthless. I ended up cutting myself very badly. I just wanted to die. I wanted the pain to go away.

I thought I was a bad person to have ended up being hospitalised. What had I done to deserve this? I was on three different medications to help me get through the day and found it difficult to do the simplest of tasks.  In between arts and crafts and relaxation classes, I was sent back to my room, where I would stare out of the window with white bars obscuring the view. I thought my life I was finished. I was depressed, fragmented, broken and without hope.

I was sexually abused by my natural father from the time I was nine until I was thirteen years old.  It started one day when I lied to stay off school.  I wanted to spend time with my mum but instead my father said he would stay home and look after me. I was watching cartoons when I heard him call me into their bedroom. Naked under the sheets, he told me to get into the bed.

For five years on Friday and Saturday night he would come into my bedroom that I shared with my sisters. In the dead of night, he whispered to me to get my coat and shoes on so he could take me over my gran’s house (my mum’s mother) to sexually abuse and rape me. On weekdays while I had my evening wash he would sexually abuse me in the bathroom.

In my early teens, I was taken into government care. I was angry that I was ostracised from my family who helped my dad to conceal his crimes (Mum and her mum helped him get rid of evidence and rallied against me to say I was an attention seeking liar). I was angry that I did not defend myself or say anything sooner and I was angry that I was weak.

My way of dealing with the pain was to act out, drink, smoke cigarettes and drugs and to self harm. I was defensive and manipulated situations to my advantage because I feared not being in control. When I felt threatened, I would hit out first and ask questions later. I became a liar. I was diagnosed with PTSD and depression. I allowed myself to become an object to males because I thought if I let them touch me sexually they would love me. I even called my father, my stepfather for a number of years as as way to control the reality that someone who was supposed to be my protector could do this terrible thing to me—and that I must have instigated his cruel behaviour as he did not abuse my brother or sister.

With help from a few people who cared, courage and my faith in God, I began the work needed to get me back up on my feet again and know the real Yvonne for the first time in my life.

There have been many times during the twenty-eight years since I was first abused that I never thought I would make it. With each new revelation, disturbing memory or feeling that would arise, I recognised that I had a choice to make. I could either let each discovery swallow me into an abyss of despair or ride through the pain clinging on for dear life hoping that tomorrow would bring fresh hope.

I learned to forgive myself for decisions I made with the limited knowledge that I had about love, relationships and trust.

The first steps in being able to find my freedom was acknowledging that I was not to blame for the abuse happening to me. As a child I could not have controlled the choices or actions of my dad. I had to let go of the guilt and shame that had affected me since childhood. I allowed myself a lot of time to grieve over the years of loss—the loss of my childhood, my innocence, my family and so many other things that were important to me. I learned to forgive myself for decisions I made with the limited knowledge that I had about love, relationships and trust (for example, ending up in an abusive relationship with my first child’s father) that stemmed from my belief that being treated badly was what I deserved.

I have learned over the years that I am worthy of all the good things God has in store for me. I am worthy of love and I am acceptable the way I am; I began to like me, Yvonne. I spent so many years people pleasing; believing that to receive love was based on my performance only to be hurt, betrayed and humiliated. I have learned it is acceptable to be me because I have chosen to stop rejecting myself.

The journey to healing is a lifelong process and I need to continue to be patient with myself and forgive myself when I fall down along the way. Dealing with the challenges head on has been a difficult task and now I deal with it by getting support and help from a loving husband and a small good network of close friends. Stepping out of the shadow of my past, I rightly enjoy all the wonderful things I have; loving family, the ability to love and accept love, to make decisions based on what I decide rather that out of my experience of being sexually abused. These things seem so small but are precious to me. I am learning to live a new life of freedom.

Yvonne EllisYvonne Ellis is the founder of Daughter Arise,  an organisation that supports women and men in the aftermath of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. In her book of the same name, Yvonne shares her journey of healing from sexual abuse. She finds fulfilment in encouraging others that there is hope and life after abuse.  Yvonne  lives in South West London, England with her husband, Stephen Ellis, and is the mother of two. 

Now that you’ve heard from Yvonne, we’d love to hear from you. Please comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to the comments so you can continue to participate in the discussion. If you would like to protect your privacy, you don’t have to use your real name. Email addresses are never made public.

Related Posts:
Casting Off the Shame of Sexual Abuse
Why Was I Afraid of Healing From Sexual Abuse?
Dealing With Triggers of Abuse

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  1. Yvonne,
    I can relate to the need to forgive yourself for the ways you coped with the sexual abuse. After I started healing and making changes in my life, I recognized the connection between my childhood abuse and all the ways I abused myself in adulthood. I felt so robbed, especially to know that I’d participated in my own destruction. Forgiving myself was the only way I could find to move forward. I needed my own compassion and connection to myself to really heal.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  2. I am still trying to figure out how to move through things. What happened to me wasn’t long or extensive but it has still affected me and I still feel a lot of anger and am not sure how to fix things…anyways..I hope I can come out of this.

  3. im so depressed again. im 55 years old and cry constantly. ive been thro three failed marrages.cant keep a man because im so bitter.i tryed to be the perfect everthing and have ocd..i wont let a man get close to me not the real me .who ever that is.i think i have mpd.a lot of people say i have different persoality. i was molested from the age of three untill i was seventeen..beaten.broke down and treated like trash.was told i was trash and a waste of life………so when does it get better? when i die. sorry so bitter

  4. I hid my molestation from my family all my life till my Grandmother died and one of the people who molested me was her husband who is my step grandfather when I finally told my Mother she admitted to knowing he was this way and that is why she ran away and got married when she was 16 although he never did it to her he tried and so she ran away I couldn’t believe that she knew he was this way but didn’t try to keep him away from me, then I went on to learn he did it to my older sister and one of our second cousins and I am sure countless others, and my Aunt who was he daughter actually had the nerve to say she was sorry she felt bad but she still cared for him until he died she claims because she needed the money she inherited from him but she still talks about him lovingly it hurts how everyone acts like it is no big deal. Then about 4 yrs ago I had a falling out with my brother who also molested me for years and my older sister knew she caught him but I swore her to secrecy and now that I think back she used to use that against me when she wanted something from me because she knew I was ashamed and I was afraid that my parents would hate me and punish me so she would tell me if I didn’t do as she wanted or give her what she wanted she would tell my parents about it so I just realize that she victimized me as much as he did. But I did admit it to my parents and all my family 4 yr ago as well as my husband. I no longer have any contact with my brother or his children or anyone who talks with him, believe it or not there is family who still talks with him and acts like oh well it is in the past lets move on. That hurts and it makes it so very hard to move on and it makes me still feel victimized if that makes any sense maybe that is stupid but I could never talk to or even be in the same room as a molester of a child they are the lowest form of humans if you can even call them a human our justice system give them the right to hurt us and then when we don’t say something right away they get the time limit on their side so we can’t even press charges. And even if we do they only get a few months in jail they don’t care. But to even talk to one is supporting them and telling a victim they mean nothing their feelings mean nothing. That is what makes it so hard to move on maybe I am wrong who knows. :'( I wish you all so many healing thoughts, hugs and love. xoxo

  5. As painful as it is to share these awful experiences, I am glad that you are doing so for your own healing and to help other victims of sexual abuse. Hopefully, this will encourage other victims to seek help! Thanks so much for the post!

  6. I don’t know how to let go of the pain. I’m almost 40 and into my second marriage that I could have possibly ruined because I seek so much attention. I have a 2 yr old that I love more than I ever thought possible. I’m dieing inside…

  7. I was abused by my brother

    The first time i can remember i was abused i must of been six years old, i remmember asking my father for help with my homework and then him telling my brother to help me with my homework. Im not sure what year i was in but i must of been in reception class. He approched me with a smile and told me to come with him outside, the next i can remember is him pulling down my pants and touching me, how no brother should touch their sister. After that i rememebr going off into space and blocking out the moments of such pain. I can remeber over a period of 3 to 4 years him continueing to abuse me sexually. I cant remeber the full extent of abuse but i remeber him touching me and rubbing himself against me. The thought of it makes me sick and guilty because hes my brother. I would like to move on and continue as if it never happened and thats what i tried to do. That never works out because it will always be there, haunt you at times that you dont want it to, have flash backs that make you want to scream and fight back. I tried to repress it and not think about it, all it does is make you empty and leave an empty space that you have to fill and the reason for this is that i was given no opportunity to speak out and express how i was being abused.

    My parents who i love till this day are the ones who i believe should of been there for me and been aware of what was going on. My pain was introverted and hidden behind a mask of smiles that were just a cover for the pain that was happening inside. I could not read or write at the age of 10 which was wrong and something that should of been taken notice off. My parents took no notice and didnt help me they just carried on with their lifes and didnt notice that their abused daughter was suffering from low selfs esteem and such a anger and pain. I was just called stupid, doeasnt work hard and lazy by my tutors and i felt that my parents felt the same way. They never told me otherwise or even tried to understand why i felt so stupid, they didnt even know i felt stupid or unable to achieve anything in life. I felt like i was nothing and that i did not exist in this world only to please others and to listen to their problems.

    I have more to tell…..

  8. Thank you all for sharing at 42 I’m still struggling with my abuse as a child and a brutal assault 2 years ago sometimes I still don’t feel worthy of life cause every day I face painful realities

  9. I understand.
    My father would come into my room and beat me until I couldn’t stand, then he would rape me. He did this often and it was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. I still haven’t told anyone. I’m married now and it still haunts me whenever my husband wants to touch me. I cry and scream after he does anything. He doesn’t know how this affects me because I’m too scared to talk.

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