Bravely Moving Forward After Sexual Abuse

by Brittney Drames

As a child, I thought my abuse occurred and continued both because I wasn’t enough of something and yet was too much of something else. Not good enough to be treated right but too pretty to be left alone. Attracting too much attention but not outspoken enough to tell. Too smart for my own good but not smart enough to avoid what I knew was wrong.

I existed in a constant state of confusion, never knowing what I was going to get and why. Did I do too much and ask for it? Or was I not enough and deserved it?

In fact, there were times when I was with my abuser and for whatever reason the abuse didn’t occur. But instead of being relieved that he was kind and gentle towards me, I fretted over what I could have possibly done wrong. Too worried about what he thought and yet not concerned enough with how what he thought (and did) made me feel.

It led to hard-to-break perfectionist tendencies (both to protect myself and my secret) and a deep-seated fear that one misstep on my part and everything would crumble…my family, my reputation, my relationships, and my life. I grew up scared to be seen and at the same time convinced I wasn’t worthy enough to be noticed.

I evaluated everything that came my way based on the experiences of my past and it kept me paralyzed. Frozen in fear. Too scared to engage, to speak my mind, and to be authentically me. I did what and lived how I thought everyone expected me to and tried to maintain the darkest of secrets all the while.

But I wasn’t truly living. I was surviving on the outside – poised, obedient, well-mannered, a star-student – and completely dying on the inside – plagued with anxiety, an eating disorder, and absolutely no self-confidence.

Instead of healing myself though, I set my full focus on healing others and threw everything I had into my education working all the way up to a medical degree and board certification in pediatrics. Ultimately, I made myself into the person I always wanted and needed to have in my life as a child and adolescent.

But even after I started releasing the secrecy and shame and tried to earnestly begin my own healing, I still felt those long-held survival techniques anchoring me to the past like shackles. I felt like I was living on the sidelines of my own life unable to fully participate in the present.

In previous years of working to heal from my traumas, instead of making a lengthy list of New Year’s resolutions that would likely leave me with more guilt and self-struggle if I was unable to see them through, I chose to simply focus on one word for the duration of the twelve months with no expectations, no pressure, and no stress – just growth and grace.

Last year, I chose the word BRAVE to focus on and tried to break out of those aforementioned abuser- and self- imposed restraints. It was certainly easier said than done. I distinctly remember a therapy session at the end of 2016 where my counselor asked me, “What are you afraid of?” My first thought and totally honest reply….”Everything!”

As a survivor of long-term sexual abuse and multiple later episodes of rape between the ages of four and thirteen by one perpetrator and a separate rape at the age of seventeen by a different perpetrator, it was true; everything did scare me. Even seemingly good things left an imprint of fear on my heart because I knew from my past how quickly they could go bad.

And so it was then that my one word for 2017 came to me. BRAVE. I needed to practice the art of being brave; the art of being scared of everything but giving everything a chance to change me….to make me bolder, to make me better.

After clinging to control (or at least the illusion of it) for decades, having lived through so many experiences where I had absolutely none, I needed to let go a little and step out of my uncomfortable comfort zone. I wanted (needed!) to grow my inner strength, and I desperately wanted to go from the voiceless victim I felt like I was to the valiant victor over my past that I truly wanted to be.

I didn’t have a clear path of taking this on in mind, however, so I just started off small: first telling my family I was going to counseling (for my most recent miscarriage they assumed) then transforming my teenage patients’ whole demeanors when I responded with a quiet “Me too” statement of solidarity to their tear-filled disclosures of having been sexually assaulted.

I told my trusted friends that were in the know more about the sexual violence wrought against me, especially the aftermath of surviving it, and I let myself start to love and care for that younger girl within who had endured so much pain. And what I thought weeks before might endanger me – breaking the silence, telling the secrets, releasing the shame – surprisingly began to empower me.

So I ventured a step or two (or a thousand) further and told my whole truth to my parents (with a heart as prepared as it could be for any reaction I might get) and then took on Sexual Assault Awareness Month with gusto publicly sharing that I was a survivor of sexual violence on my social media and encouraging my friends to “Believe Survivors.”

Though I did get complete silence from some people I didn’t expect, what I got more of was statements of support encouraging me to keep speaking, keep standing up, and keep being strong. And I found so many people willing to share their story because I first shared mine.

Was it easy? Not. At. All. There were trials and tears, frustration and fears. But each small step away from what my abusers/rapists made me believe about myself gave me the confidence I needed to take the next one, ever closer to the me I wanted to be and always with the word BRAVE in the back of my mind.

Was it worth it? Absolutely! What I discovered on the other side of all the fear I had been living behind was a sweet, sweet freedom. The shackles of shame, silence, and secrecy were gone and I was able to continue truly healing in ways that hadn’t been possible to me before, all while helping others do the same, which was another level of healing in its own right.

And now that I’ve torn down hundreds of walls and gone public with my history of sexual violence, I’m working to not let it control who I am today and what I’d like to be tomorrow. So presently, in the beginning of 2018, I move FORWARD (this year’s one word)….not limiting myself based on the playlist of my past but empowered by the potential of my future, all the while never forgetting, and continuing to take, those BRAVE baby steps that led me from surviving to thriving in the first place.

Do you choose a word for the year to guide, empower and inspire you? Please share with us below and remember to subscribe to the comments so you don’t miss any of the discussion. You can post anonymously and emails are never shared publicly.

 

Brittney Drames is a wife, mother, board-certified pediatrician, and survivor of sexual violence, who has a passion for helping others both personally and professionally. She enjoys reading, time spent at the beach, being with family and friends, decorating her home, and delicious food. Though she likes travelling (albeit briefly) to big cities, Brittney and her husband happily reside on several acres of sprawling countryside near the coast of Virginia/North Carolina and are the blessed parents of two wonderful boys she loves to hold in her hands and four precious babies she lives to hold in her heart. She credits her faith, family, friends, and fellow survivors for helping her bravely get this far and is looking forward (pun intended) to what’s next on her healing journey.

 

Related Posts:
Letting Go of Control to Have a Freaking Amazing Future
The Hesitancy and Happiness of Thriving After Abuse
Taking Back My Life After Abuse

 

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Bravely Moving Forward After Sexual Abuse

8 thoughts on “Bravely Moving Forward After Sexual Abuse

  • January 28, 2018 at 2:45 am
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    Thank you for sharing your story. Truly inspiring. You are truly brave. At 59, I’ve been coming to terms with the abuses experienced in childhood and the effect on my life. I an struggling to write down my own story. I am grateful to you for the gift of reading yours.

    Reply
    • January 28, 2018 at 4:05 pm
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      Thank you so much for your kind comments. It’s never to late to begin loving and helping to heal those hurting children within. They’re worth it and so are you!

  • January 28, 2018 at 7:05 am
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    Thank you, reading this gives me more insight and tells myself there is more work to do. You instill courage in those of us who haven’t gone totally public, and hope that we don’t have to keep looking back. But instead FORWARD. There is a lot of how you put things I identify with greatly. I just don’t have the elegant words to express it.

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    • January 28, 2018 at 4:34 pm
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      Thank you so very much! We’re all proverbial construction zones – constantly working to tear down the old and build up the new. In trying to make progress restoring myself to who I want to be, I’ve found that healing comes in taking down one wall at a time, lie by lie, abuse by abuse. It’s hard work to be sure but it’s totally worthwhile. Believing in your ability to keep on keeping on! And remember you can still be facing/moving forward even if you occasionally need to quickly glance in the rear-view mirror. Wishing you all the best on your journey!

  • January 28, 2018 at 12:32 pm
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    That is so stunningly powerful and honest. You did a great job my friend. As always I am so very proud. Now, forward you go….let nothing and nobody stop you. I have always had faith in your journey.

    Reply
    • January 28, 2018 at 4:50 pm
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      Saying thank you just isn’t enough! You have been such a consistent encouragement, support, and source of wisdom to me. So grateful to call you my treasured friend! Love you!

  • January 28, 2018 at 12:43 pm
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    I AM VERY PROUD OF YOU! and not for the academic accomplishments which you achieved with ease out of hard lined expectations placed on you by parents AND your adult self…I AM VERY PROUD OF YOU FOR LOVING 1. the little girl inside that begged to be safely loved and terrified that love always meant hurting, 2. Loving the teenager within that was confused and didn’t know who she truly was and 3. Becoming an adult that loves ALL of YOU. I AM VERY PROUD OF THE GENUINE YOU THAT YOU ALLOW TO SHINE. Hugging and loving parts of you that NEVER had a voice and teaching them what real love and safety truly is and that it does exist. they all trust you now, You just need to KEEP trusting yourself. Take care of you to keep nurturing all of you. I AM VERY PROUD OF YOU.

    Reply
    • January 28, 2018 at 5:55 pm
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      WOW! There are simply not enough words to convey how much this means to me. Thank you for always trusting and believing in me and, more importantly, for teaching me to trust and believe in myself. You have such a gift for helping to heal others, Jeanne, and I’ll always be grateful God saw fit for our paths to intersect. You recognized the hurting little girl deep within and gave her hope and you took the broken adult she grew up to be and helped make her brave. Without you, I don’t know where I’d be. My gratitude is without bounds. I AM VERY THANKFUL FOR YOU!!!

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