OK guys, lets help this lady out and get our own points across. I should have posted this a few weeks ago but I got a little lost and caught up with events in my own life.
Hello to all male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I am sending out a call for help! I am also a survivor of CSA and I am in the process of writing a book about triggers, flashbacks and how, as adults, we cope with them. We are aware that CSA is not gender specific therefore I would like to include stories from men. The book, Coping Mechanisms currently has seven female stories, all contributions are anonymous. I have selected my story to give you an idea of wat I am looking for. There is no restriction on word count, it can be as short as you want or longer than mine. I would like to thank Ján for giving me a spot on his blog. And I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my request!
My name is Tracy Black, my age is, well let’s say I’m in my very early fifties and I am a mother of two boys. I have three grandchildren and hope to meet a lot more in the future.
I have been living in Spain for several years now. In fact, I have spent most of my life travelling. My father was in the British Armed Forces, and as a family, we went with him to all his postings. We have travelled to Singapore, Malta, Germany and Northern Ireland to name but a few. Sounds great doesn’t it? It should have been but I dreaded each move.
My father started abusing me when I was five; we were living in Germany at the time. At first, it involved me touching him, then vice-versa. The abuse I suffered was both physical and sexual. He didn’t only groom me for himself he groomed me for his friends.
With each new posting, he upped his game. I was a child and thought that’s what dads did. He isolated me from any friends I made and he kept me behind closed doors at every opportunity.
Abusers are good liars and they are exceptional when it comes to convincing others. He told me if I dared tell anyone my mother would die, plain and simple. She would literally be struck down where she stood. I persevered because I didn’t want my mother to die and I certainly didn’t relish the responsibility he put on me. I kept quiet for the sake of my mother.
Growing up was like living in another world, a dark and lonely place, but for me it was normal. By the time I reached 11 years of age I realised that what he was doing wasn’t right. However, I still believed that if I told anyone my mother would die, he had instilled that belief in me and had secured my silence. I knew I needed to tell someone, anyone because the older I became the more horrific his advances. Who would believe me anyway? After all, he was a hero wasn’t he? He was a man wearing an army uniform, there to serve and protect everyone.
At twelve, I became out of control. I was fighting in and out of school, thieving from shops and aggravating grown-ups. I did all I could to get noticed by the Military Police. I stupidly thought that if I became so out of control, someone would ask me why I was behaving so badly. Nobody asked. All the Army did was assign me to a Social Worker and they monitored my behaviour at school.
Things didn’t get any better and one night I ran away. The Military Police eventually found me and I refused to be taken back home. I told them everything. They didn’t believe me. The following morning they decided that I was to be sent away to a Boarding School until I was old enough to leave and make my own way in the world.
At the age of 15, I left Boarding School, and headed to the UK and began to make my own way in life. It was easier said than done. By the time I was 21 years old I was a single parent with two boys.
I remember one particular flashback that was a horrible and unpleasant experience. Prior to this, I’d had little things that reminded me of my childhood abuse, but nothing I couldn’t handle – I pushed them aside in my own way. None of them had shoved me over the top until the Old Spice incident.
The offensive trigger was the smell of Old Spice aftershave. When it happened I was sitting on a bus on my way to work. Like every other morning it was busy with workers and shoppers. I was lucky enough to find a seat near the rear, but after that, it was standing room only.
As more people clambered on the standing passengers had to move further up to the back. Suddenly, I got a whiff of something that sent a shockwave of emotions running through me.
Some guy, not too far from me, was wearing Old Spice aftershave. I found the source of the smell and he looked at me and gave me a smile. I panicked, in my mind I was a child again and all I saw in front of me was my father standing grinning and beckoning with his finger as he used to do.
In that moment, time stood still for me and I felt terrified. Even though it was wintertime sweat ran down my face and neck. My stomach was doing summersaults.
A woman sitting beside me gave me a nudge and asked who was going to hurt me and was I okay. It dawned on me that I must have been mumbling out loud. My only thought was to run, run as far away as possible from the smell of Old Spice aftershave. But to do that, I would have had to shove and fight my way through the throng of passengers and it meant passing by him too.
The thought of moving from my seat panicked me even more, without warning my stomach heaved and I vomited all over the floor of the bus. Standing passengers moved aside for fear of me being sick over them. I saw my chance and darted down the aisle and off the bus. It took a few hours for me to feel ‘normal’ again.
I stayed off work for the rest of the week because I was so scared in case the man with the aftershave was on my bus. A friend was worried about me, although she had no idea about my childhood sexual abuse. At her insistence I went to the doctor’s surgery because the work had requested a sick note. To my surprise, I ended up telling him about the abuse I had suffered at the hands of my father and the incident on the bus.
I was glad I went, he was sympathetic and understanding. It was then I found out I had had an ‘episode.’ The doctor explained about triggers and flashbacks. He discussed ‘grounding’ with me and suggested I used it if I ever had another one and it would help me through it.
I never did come across anyone else who wore Old Spice, new scents came out and men moved onto the newer products. It didn’t mean the end of my triggers though because soon after I took an aversion to the smell of lavender, be it flowers, sweets or perfumes. When I was a child, my mother used to fill my room with soap ornaments from Avon and they were always lavender scented.
A friend used to come to my house and she always had lavender perfume on. The smell overpowered me and it took me by surprise because it was her usual perfume and it hadn’t bothered me before. I was able to put the grounding technique to the test.
I left my friend in another room and went into my kitchen. I thought about painting it, cleaning out the fridge and cupboards. Keeping my mind occupied was my main objective and after a couple of minutes I was fine. It didn’t make the flashback disappear but it blurred the visions. The distraction and ‘grounding’ worked for me.
After that incident, I bought incense candles and still do to this day. My house always smelled of vanilla incense and it masked my friend’s perfume whenever she came to visit.
Even to this day, I avoid garden areas or places where I know there are lavender shrubs. I’m glad to say I can put up with the smell now without having a flashback surfacing. Although the odour still makes me nauseous but I think it is all in my imagination and my mind is playing tricks on me.
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Endorsed by Lesley Hayes
Now retired from practice, Lesley Hayes worked for over twenty years as a UKCP registered Integrative Psychotherapist, a UKRC registered Counsellor, and an accredited Full Member of AHPP, the Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners.
I have read Tracy Black’s book Coping Mechanisms with great interest, and value the way she has approached the subject. For so many years sexual abuse has been shrouded in shame and silence, and it’s encouraging to see how the tide has turned in recent years and survivors are finding their voice and standing by their right to be heard.
The difference between Coping Mechanisms and some other books I've seen written by survivors is that it shares the insights gained by the writer rather than just the story, and aims to put the reader confidently back in the driving seat, rather than simply describing the road crash of their experience. There is sound advice here as well as some harrowing descriptions of what led to survivors losing control of their lives.
It is a book written with compassion rather than anger, by someone who has worked diligently to move beyond her own experience of childhood abuse. If you have been drawn to this book because the title and description resonates in some way with your own experience, then feel heartened. You have come to the right place. Tracy Black is the acclaimed author of several works of fiction that explore the subject, as well as her own autobiography. She is offering you here the wisdom gained from her journey out of pain and powerlessness into a place of health and optimism. Lesley Hayes
Contact Tracy via this blog, or her Twitter @TracyBlack05