Living with a Pedophile: My Story of Trauma and Abuse

Posted by on December 18, 2012 in women | 19 comments

(Trigger warning for violence, sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse.)

I am an abuse survivor.  When I was a child, I was exposed to a pedophile.  Then the pedophile used my body repeatedly, rendering me psychologically injured and scared.  He managed to engage me, groom me, and then use me.  When he stopped assaulting me the fourth time, he terrified me so much that I never told a soul until I was in college seeing my first counselor.  I was 20.

I used to count 4 instances of abuse on one hand, but have since been able to see that abuse is more than just the assault itself.  I was assaulted four times, but I was abused far more often as I lived with the constant stressor of social and sexual deviance in my home life.  It still makes my mind into a bit of a pretzel when I think of it in this new way, but I’m practicing and it gets easier each time.

So now, instead of saying “I was sexually abused 4 times”, I simply say that I lived with a pedophile who used my body.  He used me sexually when he groped me, but he also used me in a myriad of other ways.  He manipulated me, he intimidated me, he lied to me, and many other unhealthy, hurtful things.

Abuse is so far-reaching, permeating the air in the room, the times between assaults, all the way to the perimeter of that relationship one has with the deviant.  I’m finally getting clarity on what that means.

In my case, abuse took many forms, and I had more than one abuser: emotional abuse as manipulation, spiritual abuse as coercion to stay quiet to ensure my salvation, and physical abuse as hitting, slapping, and physical intimidation.

Violence

As I tried to make sense of what was happening to my body, I dismissed the actions of the pedophile as a violent act.  I told myself that violence was only when you had “something to show for it”.  I didn’t have bruises, cuts, or burns.  I didn’t need medical attention or a hospital trip.  So I concluded that what happened wasn’t violent.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines violence this way:

the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation. (source)

I found this definition with the help of a trauma and violence therapist I found quite serendipitously last spring.  He has helped me understand that violence encompasses neglect, emotional harm, and sexual abuse even when it is “nice”.

I see now that conceptualizing abuse and violence in this way was a coping mechanism that I was using to survive.  I spent my childhood in survival mode.  It became commonplace, the very definition of a “chronic stressor”.  As you know from my writings about the sleep-food-stress connection, stress can make you fat, and sleep is a huge aspect of health that many ignore.

I used to think that even though I was groped and used, that it wasn’t quite as bad as it “could” have been, you know?  I have spent my whole life downplaying what actually happened, so that I could cope with it and survive the horror and terror of being stalked and assaulted when I was sleeping, where I was living, not being protected by people who should have been loving and empathetic and safe.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Living with a constant stressor will often result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  PTSD generally has features that range from hypervigilance to recurring dreams to amnesia.  You can see the DSM-IV criteria here to see if you have any or all symptoms.

In my case, hypervigilance and avoidance are the main features I have dealt with.  Hypervigilance is living on high alert, ready for an attack or assault, unable to settle down into a relaxed state.  At the time of the abuse, I experienced more acute hypervigilance.  I had trouble sleeping, staying asleep, and I developed headaches and muscle tightness in my body from the stress.

Metabolism and Fat Hatred

Metabolism is tied very closely to stress, PTSD, and weight.  Living with constant stressors can wreak havoc on your metabolism, whether you are married to an abusive partner who gaslights you, manipulates you, beats you, or you grew up with abuse in your childhood.

Maybe you were overtly assaulted.  Maybe you were neglected to the point of feeling abandoned.  Maybe you were actually abandoned.  Maybe you grew up unloved, unsupported, unheard.  Maybe you didn’t have much money, and your parents were gone all the time.  Maybe you find yourself in a string of abusive relationships, wondering why you can’t see it until it’s too late.

All these scenarios I listed (and any of those I didn’t) are chronic stressors that can hurt your body and your metabolism.

Cortisol is a major player in the PTSD and weight connection.  Cortisol is steroid hormone used by the body to deal with stress.  If you are in an acutely stressful situation, you get this dose of cortisol for a short amount of time.  If you are in a chronically stressful situation, such as a home life or relationship that is abusive or toxic, then you get many doses of cortisol over a long period of time.

These cumulative doses of cortisol not only build up over time, but can also contribute to failing metabolism, belly fat, and many other ailments.  Here is a partial list of contributing factors to cortisol production.  I have limited it to the items that I think are of use to our community here (source):

  • caffeine
  • sleep deprivation
  • prolonged or overly intense physical exercise
  • severe trauma or stressful events can elevate cortisol levels in the blood for prolonged periods
  • subcutaneous adipose tissue regenerates cortisol from cortisone
  • anorexia nervosa may be associated with increased cortisol levels
  • commuting increases cortisol levels relative to the length of the trip, its predictability and the amount of effort involved
  • Severe calorie restriction causes elevated baseline levels of cortisol

Please note that there is a common thread in these bullet points that all seem to encompass the ideas presented in Diet Recovery, Eat For Heat, and Health at Every Size. Eating low carb, joylessly working out to lose weight, and trying to fit into society’s norms for body weight and type all are counterproductive to true health.

In our society we are encouraged to hate our bodies if they are fat or imperfect.  We idealize unattainable, airbrushed versions of beautiful people, striving for something that doesn’t even exist in reality.

Using the one-size-fits-all model of “calories in, calories out” + gym = health doesn’t always work.  I submit to you that one reason is due to trauma, abuse, and chronic stress.  I have always worked out.  I have always eaten the best way I could.  But the chronic stressors of my childhood have taken their toll.

So what should we do?

Abuse is uncomfortable for us to acknowledge as a society.  We want to think that the only pedophile is the creepy-looking guy lurking in the bushes, or some stranger that we don’t know.  But abuse is quite common, and something that needs to be dealt with head on.  Abusers are found in any demographic, and are not able to be predicted by socio-economic status, race, or other factors.  The biggest exception is gender, since the majority of abusers are male.

First, simply try to wrap your head around this idea: you know someone who has been abused.  It’s the truth.  Be open to it.  Acknowledge that this is the reality of the world we live in.  Be kind.  Be understanding.  Don’t tell survivors how to feel, what to do, how their timetable of healing should look.  Just listen.

Also, if you know someone who was abused, help them find a trauma or violence counselor or therapist in your area.  If you have been abused or traumatized, seek out treatment and support from trusted people to help you.  You can search for therapists that specialize in abuse, domestic violence, interpersonal violence, trauma, or sexual abuse specifically.

I cannot stress enough the importance of finding support and help from a professional who can guide you through the injuries you have sustained due to trauma and abuse.  It’s like learning a new language, and you need a teacher.

Abuse is painful, and it always will be.  I don’t get to remember a childhood of safety, or a home where I was nurtured. But I do get to create a safe and nurturing environment for my children.  And I get to be a stand for others to get their support and treatment.  But most importantly, I listen.  I am available for those who need me to talk.

It also gives me clarity and rest when I understand it as something that wasn’t personal.  I was simply unfortunate, unlucky.  But I don’t have to survive anymore.  Now I get to live my life.

To fully understand the metabolism connection to abuse and PTSD, please read Diet Recovery and Eat for Heat which both explain the mechanisms in our bodies that manage stress and relaxation.

Originally published at Our Nourishing Roots.

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19 Comments

  1. Wow! Excellent article Kmillecam! Very happy to see you are healing!

  2. I am so very, very sorry.

  3. Powerful. Thank you.

  4. While there are a lot of sad things about this story/these life experiences, there are also a lot of happy things. As a very, very firm believer in the power of sleep (and food) to heal us, I am really grateful for the way you tie everything together. There are things all of us can do, whatever our wounds and sorrow have been. It is a strong, brave post. Thank you.

  5. I believe that the more voices there are, the better survivors can heal and the better prevention efforts can be within the church. Thank you for being willing to write about this.

    I am glad you view yourself as a survivor. I believe you are finding the path that is right for you. You are so very not alone. I know that at least 25% of the young women and women in the ward I serve in are survivors of sexual abuse and/or rape. I have witnessed God’s miraculous power act to heal and I have seen that every survivor’s path to healing is different.

    Which church policies or training would you recommend that would have made a difference in your case when you were a minor? Is there anything you would like the church to teach or do differently regarding sexual abuse?

    • I learned so much from this post. Thanks for sharing such a difficult experience and clearly explaining how we can get help if we’ve been abused and how we can be more understanding when talking to loved ones and acquaintances who have been abused.

      I continue to love and admire you for engaging in this hard work and helping others.

      • Thank you, Emily :)

    • I have some ideas about this. My mom was also abused by a pedophile when she was a child and she felt powerless to talk about it until she was an adult. By then, it was too late to prosecute. Meanwhile, her abuser was now attacking a younger relative. The pressure of testifying was too difficult for this young girl. Now an adult, my mother would have been willing to take on this challenge, but the law did not allow it. I believe we should lobby against such legal deadlines.

      Likewise, in the church, when adult women report abuse that occurred during childhood, church leaders sometimes think the event is so far in the past that they need not discipline the abuser, when in fact, it is highly likely that the abuser now has younger victims who are keeping his secret. Therefor, such abuse should never be considered too far past to merit action.

      We need to work on how we talk about forgiveness and make it perfectly clear that it is not necessary to put yourself or anyone else in harm’s way in order to forgive. Breaking contact with or incarcerating a pedophile is not a failure to forgive.

      Since secrecy facilitates abuse, we need to help children be comfortable talking to us about abuse. Because of what my parents had learned from my mom’s experiences, they utilized personal priesthood interviews to ask me about whether anyone was abusing me, starting from a very young age. In my family, we did these talks with one parent and then the other, since it is not always the father who is easiest to talk to. The church has a parents guide which has good advice about how to talk about such issues in age appropriate ways but it needs updating.

      • Absolutely. I was told, specifically, by my bishop that because it had happened so long ago, that I should keep going to therapy but that there shouldn’t be any discipline for my abuser because it would just “rip my family apart”.

        Not only does this facilitate a pedophile to continue in their behavior and not have to take responsibility for what they have done, but it sends a VERY clear message to the person disclosing the abuse that THEY are the ones who are causing the ripping apart of the family. That they should just let it go. That they should just keep quiet. And all this fits in with what the pedophile WANTS to have happen anyway.

        See what I mean?

    • Even back in the day when I was disclosing the abuse to my bishop, I was struck by the fact that the only hotline available to me was the legal hotline for the BISHOP to find out what the mandatory reporting laws in that state were. I was more than a little surprised.

      And yes, I was offered counseling, and I was offered FREE counseling, which is something. But again, having to push for counseling, and being questioned by each new bishop about why the church should cover the cost, and then to get counseling and have it look like everyone else’s counseling…all these things are far from ideal.

      Best case scenario: the church employs counselors and therapists that specialize in trauma, pedophilia, interpersonal violence, and abuse. It’s easy to get in to see one. Bishops ALWAYS disclose abuse.

  6. This is a great resource, Kmillecam. I’m so proud of you for speaking your truth and helping others along their own similar paths.

    I hope you continue to heal and continue to live a life that is true to who you are.

  7. I congratulate you for putting the past behind your back and building a future around healing, love and nurturing. I am saddened by your childhood experience but I am so happy to see how strong of a person you are becoming. Your story gives me hope for every wrong doings in the world. The process of healing might never end but there can still be light at the end of the tunnel.

  8. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Thank you for sharing and I agree that sharing these extremely painful and damaging experiences is important for others. God bless you.

  10. Thank you for sharing. You are brave.
    I wish more people could/would talk about their abuse – or even understood their abuse. The more dialogue, the more we can help each other endure – and the more (hopefully) we can be aware to stop it from happening around us.

  11. Thank you for sharing your story.

  12. I think its important to note that not all pedophile are male. In my case my sister was my pedophile, and she was allowed to get away with grooming me because of the chaos that was going on in the house. Years later when I confronted her in the presence of my Aunt, she refused to admit that she forced me to perform sexually for her. She and my aunt think I misinterpreted what went on. I know what went on and there was no misinterpretation. I have told other family members what she did but they refuse to believe me and tell me that I’m a liar.

    I know I was an easy target, I was the youngest, I was always home by myself, but, that does not excuse what went on and the fact of the matter is that I know not to trust, nor to depend on family anymore. And I make no apologies for not talking or even bothering to maintain a relationship (like I have in the past)

    • Ugh, I’m so sorry for the response your family has given to you as you have disclosed the truth of what happened. I also feel that it is important to not make any excuses or apologies to my deviant family members when I take healthy steps and make requests that contribute to my health.

      Like asking them to not call, not say “I love you”, not touch me when we see each other in real life. This is far from “not letting it go”, like I have been accused of before. Instead, it is acknowledging reality and taking my health seriously and honoring it.

  13. And you got out from that horibble and devastating situation very well. I so admire you, you know, you are too brave to share this to the world and I also admire your concern to every girl and woman in the world through this.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Living with a Pedophile: My Story of Trauma and Metabolism | OUR NOURISHING ROOTS - [...] Cross-posted at The Exponent. [...]
  2. Three Weeks to Practice Before I Preach | The Exponent - [...] about the time I was asked to give this talk, Kmillecam wrote an excellent post about sexual abuse during …

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