Trigger Warning for discussions of mental illness as well as sexual and emotional abuse, but no graphic descriptions.
Hi, my name is Angie- I’m a cis-female, queer, pan-sexual, feminist, polyamorous, kinky (sub-identified), anarchist, pro-choice, atheist agnostic, smart as heck, bad-ass gal. I had an abortion at 21 and have never for a second regretted that decision- it is one of the best choices I even made. I’m also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, a survivor of an emotionally abusive and sexually coercive relationship, and I struggle with depression and anxiety.
For a long time the worst part of having a mental illness, or dealing with the childhood sexual abuse I experienced, or having survived an emotionally abusive (but not physically abusive) marriage was feeling so like I was the only one with these problems. I occasionally talked to my closest friends about this stuff, but not often or with any real depth. I felt so ashamed and ALONE. No-one else had these problems, right? I just had to pull up my big girl panties and deal…right?
And then a funny thing happened. Well, it was not so funny actually. At the time it was awful. I was at a weekly discussion group- we talked about our feelings and shit like that, usually just “my boyfriend is driving me nuts” and the like. But this week one of the women needed to work through some of her own issues around the sexual abuse she was subjected to as a child. While in group I was fine, and basically as soon as it ended I freaked. I was more triggered than I had ever been before or than I’ve been since. I was pretty much unable to function for about a week. I lived at Twin Oaks at the time, and I wrote what we call a “mailbox letter” laying out why I was freaking out and my history. I did this mainly so the 100 people I lived with knew what was up and why I was either walking around like a zombie or hiding in my room.
An amazing thing happened. Person after person came up to me and said “I was raped as a child, if you need to talk let me know,” or “my ex-husband was emotionally abusive and most people think it’s not a big deal cause he didn’t hit me- but it is and I’m here if you need someone to vent to,” or “I’m bi-polar, if you want to talk about what’s possible with anything from meditation to medication let me know.” Literally DOZENS of people made these offers- dozens out of a group of 100. I slowly found my footing again with the support of my friends, community, and the amazing online groups at After Silence. I discovered that 1 in 6 American women have been raped (globally the number is 1 in 3), that emotional abuse is on the rise and has similar (long term) consequences as physical abuse, that men experience domestic violent almost as often as women, and that I was most definitely NOT ALONE.
And I got MAD. I got mad that I spent so many years silent and ashamed, when I could not only have been getting help from those around me, but also supporting other people. And that is when I blew the doors off of my (very full) closet with a bazooka. Suddenly I wasn’t just a gal with issues, I was a gal who could help people! And I did, I do. I started doing peer counseling with other survivors of abuse and rape. I started giving workshops on BDSM and feminism, and talking about how important BDSM has been to me as I heal from past abuse. I talked to other women who had abortions and felt awesome and empowered by that decision, but pressured by social messaging to express regret and sadness.
I tell people I have a sexual and emotional abuse history, or had an abortion, or have a weird malformed blood vessel in my brain that might explode and kill me someday (but is unlikely to unless I’m hit really hard in the head in just the right spot), just like someone else might say “I went to Catholic school,” “I like bacon,” or “I’m an only child.” My history- both the amazing and the terrible parts, shaped me into the woman I am today, and I LIKE that woman. I refuse to be ashamed, and my goal is to share this with as many people as possible. Wanna help?