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Friday, 8 May 2015

Survivor Diaries #2

Another brave survivor of sexual abuse opens up and shares his heart-wrenching story with us. 

Read how Daniel, a 48 year-old man from Sweden shares his personal accounts of surviving sexual abuse as a child and an adolescent.


WARNING - THE CONTENT BELOW IS GRAPHIC AND CAN BE TRIGGERING FOR SOME READERS. 




THERE PROBABLY ARE NO reasons why you should be reading this. I'm no one, someone, anyone, I'm no celebrity, I have no exciting adventures to share nor have I witnessed some horrible catastrophe I'm about to tell you about. I'm a boring adult and family man, I have responsibilities, I pay my bills and I go to work. I could be your neighbour or that co-worker you really don't know much about. You might say this story is about everyday life, about how cruel it can be and how little we know about the persons we have around us.
This story is about me, it's about what it's like being a victim of a crime but still having feeling of guilt for what happened.

MY EARLY CHILDHOOD isn't really much to speak about. I was just one of countless other boys living in a reasonably affluent and leafy suburb, in a traditional and stable environment, with caring and loving parents. In that sense you might call me lucky. Being the creative type of child instead of the sporty one, I didn't have many friends but I had this pretty wild neighbour kid I on and off spent time with. He was beaten by his alcoholic dad with a belt regularly but of course that "treatment" never calmed him down. As an adult and with a broader view of things I now think that my friend most likely had ADHD or something similar, but back then people obviously didn't know much about these things. He was just considered wild, school wasn't going great and the one thing he was really good at was ending up in all sorts of troubles. Despite probably knowing better, I was drawn to his thrilling company and we did a lot of crazy stuff my own dull life never would have contained without his presence.

At around the 11 or 12-mark, very much thanks to his lack of normal barriers and fearless way of approaching people, we got involved with a bunch of older teens and tweens. Cars - that was their interest, tuning them at day and racing in the streets of the suburb at night. I was scared at first but soon I got drawn to the excitement, I admit that. I never dared tell my parents about anything of this. I knew if I did they would never allow me to go back. So, all visits to their garage were always carefully kept secret to my parents and hid behind various layers of lies. 

After some time, about a month or so, we learnt that a party was to be held. My friend wanted to go, I was hesitant but eventually I gave in for his persuasive nagging and I had him promise we'd stick together. That became my first ever taste of an unsupervised youth party; insanely loud music, thick cigarette smoke, the sound of glass breaking, people screaming at each other across the noise and couples making out in public. It was so far away from anything I up till that day had experienced.

Despite my wish to stick together somehow we got separated, unable to find him I started to feel uneasy about the situation and wanted to leave. Before I had the chance, two drunken guys grabbed me and I was pushed to some storage room and forced down on my knees. One of them had his pants down and his penis pushed itself into my mouth demanding the oral sex at that age I knew absolutely nothing about. My mouth is stuffed with him and I gag. That's where my memories seem to stop. Time stops. Everything does. I don't remember how far this went, but I do remember me standing on my all fours throwing up and being laughed at. They let go of me and I was told to get the hell out of there and never return. I immediately left of course, you probably never would have seen anyone exit a building that fast before, left for the woods behind my house and sat there crying. For how long I don't know. 

When the initial shock eventually settled, I knew I had to do something. I had to figure this out. I shouldn't have been there. Listening to my friend and going to that party was the stupidest thing I had ever done. I blamed myself for what happened and somehow assumed a single word from my mouth would throw me into the deepest of troubles. I was scared my parents would freak out so I did the only thing I could come up with, the only thing I knew I was really good at - I didn't say a word; acted like nothing happened.

Surprisingly it worked. No one seemed to notice, nothing happened. Even though I did my best to block everything out, did my best to convince myself that party never happened and consequentially didn't mean anything, in retrospect I realize that incident traumatized me. I turned cautious in my relations, stayed home as much as I could, the piano and my guitar grew even more important in my life, started to read books and listen to music probably too deep and advanced for my age. I basically was prepared to do anything to be allowed to stay at home in some self-assumed isolation that felt secure. Of course the few friends I had soon faded away. Nevertheless it had me, the quiet and lonely kid, to go even more alone.

It wasn't until way into adult years I finally had words to describe this event and could understand what it truly meant; I had been raped.


A YEAR OR TWO later, it was after the summer when I turned 13, like everyone else, I had to change school. I recall my new school as enormous and frightening. It basically held all teenagers from my part of the suburb. Life quickly got tougher. You need to make yourself heard and claim your space to exist but I never did. I never could. Maybe that's why the bullying started.

At best, my presence was accepted or barely noticed but most of the times things went worse. My backpack was taken and thrown up into the trees. Snow shovelled inside my shirt. At the schoolyard I was surrounded and pushed around, I once fell and hit my head in a railing and had to go see the nurse to be stitched up. I lied and protected them, said it was an accident and my own fault. Still the following day, I was even more laughed at when I arrived wrapped in bandage. I was called names, sometimes straight in my face or I found them written on my bench when I was back after break. When school finished, I had to walk my bike home because the valves were gone. It's not all at once but not many days passed before there's something, enough to make me keep my head down. My creativeness meant nothing to them, not even when I strengthened myself and played my guitar in front of everyone in the auditorium and thought I had a chance to change things, no one cared. So I was stuck, regarded as a punching bag free to insult or head slap without the slightest risk of getting caught and the adults did little to intervene. Maybe my teachers didn't see or realize, maybe they decided not to because that's probably the easiest thing to do. But I tried not to care because I knew freaking out wouldn't help, I was in no position to jump on a bully, wasn't friends with any of the cool kids so I knew no one would take my side if I did. Starting a fight would only make everything so much worse so did what so many tormented kids before me had done; I kept my mouth shut at home and came up with lies meant to explain dirty or broken clothes, kept a low profile at school, hid if I could, hoped it all somehow would pass and improve.


My new school offered a lot of after-school activities and I signed up for the photography class. The teacher assigned was the school's youth group leader, a beefy guy with a massive beard, I guess in his late 30's or early 40's. Picture yourself an outlaw biker; there, you pretty much have his appearance. At the first day of the course he carefully took everyone's hand including mine and introduced himself. Welcome, I'm ******. His hand seemed gigantic to me and the grip was firm. He was one of those persons with unquestionable authority that could stop a fight just by standing there staring with his arms crossed and grunt a little. I simply loved how he could be uncompromisingly decisive yet gentle and kind, I loved how he acknowledged me in the darkroom, how he leaned over and touched my shoulder with his hand, kept it there and took himself time to explain and show what to do. While waiting for our images to dry I loved listen to his stories, anecdotes from his childhood, gossip about teachers or just weird random hilarious stuff. I soon suspected a lot of it wasn't true but as he was a good story teller that didn't matter at all. The photography class soon became my source of inspiration and the weekly boost of energy. It also spread to the youth centre and whenever I went there he treated me with respect and even called me by my name. It didn't take long till I considered the youth group leader to be the only one in school really understanding me, maybe the only one in my life.


Sometime later I found out he was a keen sailor, then we truly had a lot of common ground and I liked him even more. My family also comprised of boaters but unfortunately because of my dad's work, beside a few summer weekends there never seemed to be enough time to use our motorboat. Then one evening after the photo class had finished he asked me to stay for a minute and when everyone else had left. I was invited to go sailing with him the upcoming weekend... if I wanted to. That was so unexpected! If I wanted to?? Of course, I did!! I was delighted to say the least. Back home I talked my parents into allowing me to go, I honestly don't think I gave them that much chance to say no and they were probably happy to finally see me excited over something.


WE MET EARLY IN the morning at the marina. His yacht turned out to be even bigger and more exclusive than I had expected and when I curiously looked down into the cabin I could see a palace of dark polished wooden panels and white inviting cushions. I didn't believe my eyes and I felt proud to be a part of all this, almost hoped someone from school would see us and go jealous. Then we waved goodbye to my parents and set sail. He was amazing and showed me all the basics in sailing and for some time I was even allowed to steer the yacht by myself, he had his big hand on mine to help me adjust the rudder when needed. It felt unbelievable great. Nothing besides fantastic sailing ever happened and I loved it right away, I showed up back home with a new tan and a happier than ever look on my face.

As we came to know each other better and I started to pick up things each time we sailed a bit longer, and when we had extended our sailing to span the entire day he suggested we should go even further and do overnight trips. That sounded like a brilliant idea, my parents agreed and off we went. It was then everything changed. My first experience of the other side of him was a complete surprise and a massive shock. I had been absolutely clueless. I hadn't seen it coming at all.

After sailing the entire day I soon feel asleep, happy and exhausted. It was all dark when I woke up by things just feeling weird, it took a second or two before I could grasp the situation. He was sitting in my bed, my underwear had been lowered, and he had his hand there. I was shocked when I had it all together and realized. He was masturbating me! I could have kicked him hard or yelled at him to stay the hell away from me, I could have done so much, I could have done something. But I did nothing. Put up no resistance whatsoever. In fear and confusion my stupid body just froze and I pretended to be still asleep, which of course he knew I wasn't, I just kept on doing the only thing I could think of - nothing. He kept on doing his business until he was done, then he had my underwear up and put the cover back on me. That was it. Neither one of us ever said a word. I didn't even "wake up".

The following day everything felt awkward. I wanted to say to him I didn't like it, I wanted to tell him never to touch me like that but I just couldn't phrase a single word. We both pretended like nothing had ever happened, kept on sailing without talking about it. Back home I didn't mention anything either, I was ashamed, confused, didn't know what to say, carefully balanced my words, only said what I believed my parents wanted to hear, what I wanted to be the truth but inside my mind was going in circles. Was there something I did to make it happen, he's my friend, it felt good, maybe I liked it, maybe it is supposed to be like this? I didn't tell him to stop; I didn't fight back so this can't be so bad, right? And there was no violence so this can't go as assault either, maybe that makes it my fault?

My head was full of thoughts impossible to comprehend and process and a couple of days later when  was approached in school and invited to go sailing with him again I foolishly accepted hoping it all had been nothing but a huge mistake, hoping we'd do nothing but the sailing I so much loved. I told myself he probably soon would sincerely apologize and try make it all right. I was also scared my parents would ask me why if I didn't want to go, maybe start ask me questions I didn't know how to answer, questions I was too ashamed to try answer. So I went back, worried and nervous.

After a full day of sailing we anchored for the night in some bay and it was time to enter the cabin and shut the door behind us. It was when he started to have his clothes off in front of me I realized what was about to happen. That freezing fear preventing me to put up a fight struck me again. I realized was alone with him, no one would come crashing in through the skylight and intervene and miraculously save me, I was a long way from home and just as he was my ticket to come he was also my ticket out of here. I undressed too, reluctantly and hesitantly, but I did it myself, not because I wanted to but because I didn't know how not to. I still remember how he told me I had nothing to be ashamed of, how he told me to relax and not worry. When I was in his bed and his hands touched me all over I was so nervous I hardly could breathe.

He was always smiling and laughing. I never got hit, viciously attacked, threatened, drugged or given alcohol. He didn't have to, I always silently complied. I felt I had to do everything he asked for because he was my friend. Because he was an adult and I was just a stupid lonely kid. I felt insufficient to stop it. I wanted to tell my parents the truth so bad but I just couldn't. The shame and the unspeakable embarrassment made it impossible. I felt so dirty, was afraid to get yelled at, afraid no one would believe me, afraid no one would understand, afraid to be blamed, afraid the word would spread at school making the bullying go even worse, afraid everything would turn even uglier if I told him to stop.

But I admit I was torn, I honestly saw him as two persons. At school he was fun and whenever around I felt protected from all jerks, and when sailing we always had a great time, he sure was an awesome friend and a brilliant sailor definitely knowing his stuff. That part, that undivided attention, having him all for myself, I loved it. Suddenly I, the invisible, the quiet one, suddenly I was someone. Suddenly I had someone that cared about me, it felt like I finally meant something to someone. No matter how I tried I couldn't see any way out. The only thing I knew was that as long I kept my mouth shut my shameful secret was safe. As long I kept returning I was safe.

To the rest of the world I put up a brave face and acted like everything was all right, like there absolutely wasn't anything wrong with our friendship.

It wasn't only on-board his yacht he managed to find his way on me. It was once at home in my own room, once at school, on various outings when it was off-sailing season, and at so many times when he offered me a ride home after school or after the photo class had finished. Whenever I could I made up half-lame excuses to escape but sometimes I found no way out and entered his car knowing what would ultimately happen. A hand on my thigh, him telling me how much he likes me, how I was the only one that could make him feel that good, that special. Him telling me how special I was. My ride home paused at some secluded place where I performed the oral sex I knew I never would escape. His hands gently caressing my hair, that sickening memory still makes the ordinary task of getting a haircut a really triggering and awful experience to me.


I learned not to care. I learned not to feel anything at all but I also learned to hate myself, learned to hate my body that made it look like I was enjoying his hands on me. Worst of all was when I couldn't stop myself from sense a pleasure from stuff that felt good, that really sickened me, especially when I saw him noticing it. I didn't want it to feel good! I knew if I only shut down for awhile the other guy, my friend, the person I loved spending time with would return. So I did it. I gave him what he wanted. I had him take whatever he wanted, over and over again. Time passed. Eventually the skinny kid was gone and so also the girls voice. I got taller and stronger, probably strong enough to put up a fight but I never did.


Over time all fun stuff gradually started to feel distant, his hands touching me felt more and more revolting. I was sickened by just having him close, soon I didn't care about the sailing anymore, all left was my nightmares and the shameful secret making me feel so alone and so dirty. It all came to a point where I knew I had to do something if I wanted to carry on living. I couldn't take it anymore. One day I was dropped off back home after yet another trip, stood there outside his car with my bag and guitar. Took a deep breath, forced myself to look him in his eyes and told him that I didn't want to go with him anymore. This was the last time. He instantly knew exactly what I meant, snapped, started yelling. Every kind word, every soft touch was taken back. And yes, maybe I was a worthless piece of shit and an ungrateful bastard, maybe I deserved having all those words thrown at me. Back then his sudden and never before shown anger scared me, nowadays I only see my strength finally being able to say no.


I MAY HAVE broken free from him but I never managed to escape myself. Left realizing I had been completely fooled for so long I felt hurt and humiliated. I wanted to tell my parents the truth but I just couldn't, instead I came up with new lies and got stuck in confusion anger and self-destructive behaviour, soon even alcohol and some drugs. Started to question my sexual preference which of course the bullies picked up and gave me a tough time for, got involved with people not good for me, basically did anything to destroy myself which even included a period of selling myself to men in my neighbourhood, after school, sometimes instead of school or when I lied and said I would go see my non-existing friends. As some twisted irrational revenge I guess, I wanted to feel as shitty as possible and I wanted to be able to blame it on him. Somehow my weird revenge worked, I felt more sickened than I ever could have imagined. It was just like I wanted and in some strange way I managed to convince myself it all was my abusers fault. It almost made it feel like I had reclaimed control of myself.


Of course my changed behaviour was noted both at home and in school. I got sent to the school counsellor but refused to cooperate. Insisted to everyone asking everything was okay. Came up with new lies meant to explain. Maybe they believed me, maybe not. Or maybe to believe in my denials and lies was the easiest thing to do. Either way, nothing changed.
No one ever confronted me, no one ever had me up against the wall to ask me those probing questions needed to have me cornered enough to have it all out. This is the part I find hard to understand. Why didn't anyone see anything strange or suspicious with an adult man befriending a schoolboy? Wasn't just that an obvious reason to investigate a little further? Not even my parents apparently saw anything strange in me going on various unaccompanied overnight outings. Or maybe they did but didn't consider what possibly might have happened that serious? Maybe they simply expected me to tell them something if things weren't right, maybe they meant to ask but never knew how? Or maybe the general awareness of these issues simply was less before?

For some time our paths kept on crossing at school but we avoided looking at each other. Every time I saw him even in the distance I wanted to scream out loud but I couldn't, all I felt was like I was dying, it felt like someone had punched me hard in my stomach stomped my head. Sometime later he transferred away from school and left. Maybe he was scared I would tell, maybe it was something else that made him leave, I never found out.

It took a few years but slowly the anger and recklessness eased off and got replaced by... life basically. The earth kept on spinning. Despite feeling different from everyone else and feeling like I didn't belong I put up a fake smile and went along with the ride. Life went on. I guess it's supposed to do that.
It has to.

IT'S BEEN GOOD days. It's been bad days. Good periods, bad periods. Flashbacks and nightmares have tried to tell me their story but I never went there. Never talked about it or deal with it, only buried everything deep inside... away from myself I guess. Until some 25 years later when the news of my abuser's passing reached me. One day I suddenly had his obituary in front of me. I wasn't prepared at all!

Maybe the news of his passing should have given me some feelings of revenge but it never did, instead it felt like he had escaped all responsibilities towards me so cheap and easily. I never had him confronted with all my questions. I wanted to ask him why. Was it something I did or was he simply a master of manipulation capable in saying what I wanted to hear so he could have his ways with me? Was he a serial pedophile, did he leave a life-long trail of ruined lives after himself wherever he went? Maybe he soon forgot my name when new naive kids were lured down into his yacht? Maybe I replaced someone before me, someone he had gone tired with? Why did he pick me? I never had him told about all the nightmares he left me with, he never heard how awful and ruined he made me feel and he never learned about all the pointless self-destructiveness I ended up subjecting myself to. I never had him apologize for everything he did. He just... took off and it felt like he had gotten away with it all.


Ending the Silence of Sexual Abuse

I could see how my family life suffered just as the situation at work. Everything gradually turned unbearable and I felt I was taken to the verge of implosion.

Then, after a massive flashback I finally broke 25 years of silence and disclosed my story to a trusted friend, I just had to. It was either that or something much worse. After realizing the depth of what I had told him, my friend convinced me to seek professional help which I eventually strengthened myself to do. For the first time ever I came to confront my trust issues and social anxieties, my dislike of physical contacts and roller coaster-mood. It wasn't fun but it felt good to understand the origins of all issues and have a validation to all sickening feelings.

Therapy is neither fun nor easy but it has helped me ask myself the right and important questions, it has changed my perspectives on what happened, it has made me see what I have and what is worth fighting for. Also various communities and recourses on the Internet have been important and have taken away the feelings of loneliness and have helped me find answers to profound questions.

Eventually when I had managed to gather enough strength I finally told my wife the truth about my past. To my immense surprise, after the initial shock had gone, she said pretty much the same thing as my friend had done a few years earlier; My story was despite its awfulness logical and seen in this new light, much of my behaviour suddenly made a lot of sense.


Healing from Sexual Abuse

Nowadays I live a fairly quiet but normal life, whatever that is. I have met the warmest and loveliest person on earth and I'm a father of two. My family is important to me, they're all I got, and they’re all I am. Knowing my children are safe and being able to see them grow up makes me feel proud; it makes me feel like I have accomplished something important. Like my life finally has a purpose. Growing up wasn't a very good experience but it has made me to person I am today. For better and for worse. I have made some bad decisions along the way but realizing I'm still here and actually living a reasonably good life must mean something. That positive vibe, that's the one I try focus on, that's the one I hang on to when memories from my past are trying to push through.



I am thankful that you chose to share your story with all of us. Kudos to your brave spirit and kind soul. I'm sure your decision to speak up will encourage other survivors to do the same. I'm extremely glad that I got the chance to interact with someone so strong as you.

3 comments:

  1. Cant write anything.. m crying right now... just whoever u are.. u are brave and u deserve love... we love u

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  2. Thanks for bravely sharing your story with the world. It rings true to me and my adolescent years in so many ways. Here's to raising awareness and helping to end the sexual abuse of children.

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  3. she is selfish lady she is doing for publicity not for people

    ReplyDelete