Living with a Pedophile: My Story of Trauma and Metabolism

 

abusesurvivor

(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 societies 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.

Cross-posted at The Exponent.

This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday, Allergy Free Wednesday, The Mommy Club, Thank Your Body Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Full Plate Thursday, Fight Back Friday.

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.
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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this, friend. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but I bet there are a lot of people that need to read it. You are amazing, talented, and beautiful. So glad to know you.

    • It gets a little easier each time, and I find that one of the best things I have learned recently in therapy is that what happened to me wasn’t about me. Pedophiles will use anyone, and it has nothing to do with who they are as a person. What happened to me isn’t indicative of who I am at my core. You know? So yeah. I feel pretty good about talking about all this these days 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing. I was exposed to violence daily in my home as my father was an abusive alcoholic/Drug addict. I still live in a hyper vigilant stat- Always prepping for the worst. I have struggled with PTSD and I have ALWAYS had belly fat despite eating healthier than most and regularly exercising. Thank you for sharing and I will look into the suggested resources. The more we share, the more we are able to help.

    • Hypervigilance is just so. exhausting. I’m glad this post helped, and I’m glad you commented. PTSD is quite the reality for so many of us. A little more love and understanding is always welcome, and I hope that as we talk more and more about this we can raise awareness and kindness in others. Especially about belly fat, weight, and the assumptions about fat people that they are lazy overeaters. I’m really happy that we have thoughtful folks around here who can see more than that.

  3. Caitlin Grace says:

    This must be the week for sharing stories of our abuse as I wrote and article on living with domestic violence and posted it here http://cgrace4wellbeing.blogspot.co.nz/2012/12/things-ive-learned-about-domestic.html
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know it’s not easy . I resonated with the part wehre you said you always downplayed it as i di exactly the same – I mean nobody died in our house, nobody was rushed to hospital , none of us went to school coverd in bruises- so it can’t have been that bad can it? The truth is if it affected you then and still affects you now then it was bad and nobody deserves to be treated that way.
    Whenever one of us stands up and tells our story it eases the burden for all those who are quietly suffering. Thank you for your courage in speaking out.

  4. Thanks for sharing, and for your bravery. The problem of abuse is such a world wide problem, that crosses all races, and economical circumstances. I understand what you have been gone through, and can only hope that writing this article has given you some freedom. Let’s hope we can educate our children, and our children’s children, and lead by example, so that some day the cycle of abuse will be broken for ever.

  5. You are just awesome, Kendahl. Truly. I feel so blessed to have you in my life.

    Thank you for being brave and strong enough to share this. It will help many people out there.

    BIG HUGS to my Squinty-Eyed Cocktail-Making friend! 😀

    • Okay, this made me guffaw out loud, for real! I really am so very squinty-eyed, and it doesn’t help that I smile and laugh all the time. More squinting!

      But seriously, thank you 🙂 And I haven’t read Half the Sky, but I own it. It’s one of those things that I feel may be triggering, so I haven’t sat down to read it yet (even though I know I should!)

  6. By the way, have you seen Half the Sky or read the book?

    I just watched it on Netflix. Blew me away. You have to see it.

    http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Half_the_Sky_Turning_Oppression_into_Opportunity_for_Women_Worldwide/70259897?locale=en-US

  7. I was sitting at a stoplight tinkering with my phone when I came across this post – I immediately pulled over to read it and am glad I did. As the mother of a little girl there are parts of this post that make me want to crumple into a heap on the floor and cry – how on earth can any child be betrayed in this way? At the same time I am amazed by your strength and courage. Thank you for writing this. I hope that it will encourage others to tell their stories and find healing.

  8. I know it can be hard, but thank you so much for sharing your story. 🙂

  9. Wow! You’ve made some enourmous connections. Several that were eye openers to shed more light where I thought the sunlight had already reached it’s zenith! I love that you wrote, “…permeating the air in the room” and “…even when it is ‘nice’.” and the choice word usage of “deviant”. Thank you for your strength in vulnerability. I resonated with everything you wrote.
    ~I’m sorry he hurt you~
    ~ I’m sorry your childhood upbringing hurt you~
    Peace be with you

  10. What a beautifully written post. I am sorry for your suffering. I am happy for your process of recovery. You are doing a wonderful service for others in your sharing and in your educating.
    Bless you,
    Stephanie

  11. Thank you so much for writing this post. How couragous and brave you are.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this. Writing about this is unbelievably brave– it’s sure to help a lot of people who are currently struggling.

  13. Your courage never ceases to amaze me, my friend. Thank you for this beautifully written and brave post. I continue to learn such important things from you.

  14. Kendahl,
    You’re my hero! Brave souls like you, who are open and honest about their experience, are the only way anything is going to change. Thank you.

  15. I can relate to all you have gone through… …If anyone is suffering with PTSD or who knows someone please go to http://www.patriotoutreach.org The exercise that COL.A.MONACO, USA. recommends has changed my life.

    peace and love

  16. I’m so sorry to hear what you have gone through. Thank you for having the bravery to share your story and to hopefully help others. So glad to have found your blog and can’t wait to read more.

  17. i don’t think i’ve commented on your site before but i definitely have been following you for quite some time now. i don’t know that to say other than that you’re a beautiful soul and i cannot fathom how incredibly strong you must be. i am so inspired by your openness to share this story. thank you.

  18. Gabrielle says:

    Seriously, I think women who make it through life without experiencing some form of abuse are probably in the minority. I’ve got a sunny outlook, and I love men in general, but sex and power are two of the biggest driving forces in the human animal. That’s why it’s so important to openly discuss abuse, its effects, and how to deal with it in a healthy manner. Even though it’s super hard for a victim to do so. Thank you for your bravery.

  19. Kendah,

    Thanks so much for sharing your post and what an important aspect you touch on. I was told many years ago that I’d never lose a pound till I got my liver uncompromised & got the stress under control. Even though I read on it, only a few things really spoke to me about it….until now. I love your posts and your ability to share with us all.

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  1. […] is linked to toxins, trauma, infection and hypersensitivity.  Chances are, if you have sought out real food as a healing […]

  2. […] you know, I grew up in abuse and trauma and have received treatment from a therapist who describes violence against children as a social […]

  3. […] Living with a Pedophile: My Story of Trauma and Metabolism […]

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