Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.
– Shannon L. Alder

I am not sure exactly why I am writing this piece. Actually, that’s not true. I know exactly why I am writing it. Because I am tired of people not getting it. Of people looking at me and expecting me to be “normal”. This is probably the most vulnerable I have ever been, at least in a public space. So if you continue reading, you don’t have to appreciate what I have to say, but hopefully you can respect it.

I was sexually abused as a child. By the same man for four years. And that kind of abuse has come with a lot of issues as I have progressed into adulthood. I only came out to my family and friends less than two years ago, and I have been in therapy for the last year. But there is still plenty of work to be done. There are plenty of days where it is ugly – where I am depressed, suffering from PTSD, sleepless nights from the nightmares – the list goes on and on. Luckily, a lot of this is beginning to diminish thanks to therapy, but my deep-rooted issues are still there. And many of these issues concern men and relationships. One of the hardest things to admit to myself is that I tend to turn to men for emotional support. No, I have not slept around, but I have jumped into relationships and I tend to jump all in. Which also means I tend to put my relationships with men first – and that, unfortunately, has meant that I have put men before even my friends and family. For the most part, this hasn’t been all terrible, but I know it’s not mentally healthy. I also know I don’t love this about myself because I do know how much I truly care about and love my friends and family and how much I value them – this just isn’t always properly communicated through my actions even though I feel and know it mentally. I know I have to develop a love for myself.

But it is much easier said than done, which is where I think the disconnect is from people – including some of my closest friends – truly understanding people that suffer from these kinds of issues. Mainly a fear of being alone. Now, I am not talking about a typical fear. This is incredibly escalated. A constant anxiety whenever you are alone. The restlessness, the tingles across skin, it is enough to drive anyone crazy. It is an awful feeling. One I still have yet to overcome. I have had some people very close to me even tell me that they have zero respect for me and the fact that I have prioritized my boyfriends in the way that I have. I can only say that I respect your opinions of me, but please understand (and maybe research yourself) that I have dealt with this for the last 20 years (and have only been in therapy for the last year or so) on my own, also seeing the man that abused me at least a few times a month throughout my entire life given that he was someone in my family. I was on my own for a long time, and given the severity of it all, please realize that it will take me some time to change and progress. But the biggest thing is that I am willing and ready for a change and to improve myself and not let the past define me.

I am currently in a relationship with someone that knows what I am going through and knows about my past. But this isn’t about him. This is purely a piece so that the people in my life can understand me better. And the general public can understand what victims (I hate that word, by the way) of sexual abuse have to endure every day just to function in society.

That is to say I am incredibly tolerant in relationships. I put up with a lot. The reason: because I was terribly in love with someone for nearly three years, and he knew about my past, but for the most part, I look back on that relationship, and I am ashamed. It was before I had shared my experiences with my family, before therapy – and I had many instances where I treated him like absolute shit. And he still stood by my side. Researched what he could do as my partner, took the time to understand, and he is a huge reason as to why I mustered up the courage to even share what happened to me. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without him. He is a wonderful man.

So I understand and acknowledge that the person I have been in previous relationships was not always the best, so I am willing to respect and understand and work with anyone else that has their own sets of issues. I had someone stand by me, and I will stand by the person I am with and we will work through our set of problems together. The fact is, I still have a long way to go. I’m not sure if these words here even do it justice. But my past has turned me into an individual that is incredibly non-judgmental. I have become that way because I know what it’s like to have people judge me and my actions, and do so without knowing the entire story or situation. I don’t always expect people to understand my decisions or why I think the way I do or even why I sometimes tolerate what I do from others (relationships or not), but the most important thing is I understand myself enough to know why I do the things I do. And I have a handful of people that have stuck by my side no matter what – through the dark days, the PTSD blackouts, the anger, and I will be forever grateful for them. Because in return, I give those people my all. They have my undying trust, loyalty, friendship, love, and more.

In the end, this article might just be me rambling (there’s a very good chance it is), but I know it will open eyes up to understanding what survivors go through. And the way we look at others. The way we look at love and friendships and life in general. There is a reason I hate the word victim. It stems from a root meaning of “a person who is hurt, tortured, or killed by another”. Yes, I may have been hurt and tortured. But that will not define me. There is a reason I have the word conqueror tattooed on my right arm. It stems from the Latin conquirere, which ultimately means, “to win”. And that is absolutely what I plan to do.


  1. I’m in awe of your strength and ability to so eloquently share your vulnerabilities. You have such beautiful gifts, and an enormously beautiful character. My heart aches for you, but I’m so incredibly proud of you, too. We have very similar past experiences with abuse and depression and right now I just want to wrap my loving arms around around you and whisper, “its all gonna be okay”. Love you, Sam!

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