Thoughts From an Adult Survivor of Child Abuse
I’ve been quietly reading, grieving, and praying for months now since finding PITT. For the last several years I have been unsettled by how triggering this has been for me, considering the lack of obvious connection between my experience and all of yours. In reading your stories, I think I am finally beginning to understand why your pain and suffering feel so personal to me, despite the difference in our experiences.
Let me start with something that appears to be completely unrelated to the complexity, confusion, and challenge that the transgender phenomenon has become. Let me start with a piece of my story and why I’m here now.
I am an adult survivor of child abuse. I will do my best not to strain your already overwhelmed emotions by asking for pity. My life is good. Amazing, even. But hasn't always been this way, and it took me a very long time (after finding the right therapist) to get to where I am today.
I’ve been through hell and back to make sure that my past is just that: the past. Not a badge. Not an identity. Merely one of the many things that guide my personal decisions but is not solely responsible for them. I am thriving, not just surviving. That is, after all, the end goal of all therapy—to move on from your demons, and deal with their occasional outbreak without holding society or anyone else responsible for your inevitable triggers.
That’s what thriving looks like for people like me. It means facing each day with a genuine desire to enjoy it, knowing that you might encounter sensory input that could trigger you, but no longer letting that fear of a breakdown control you, or allow you to drag anyone else in who doesn’t need to know. It means having a small group of like-minded individuals on hand for support, but ultimately realizing that I alone am responsible for managing my triggers.
I’m here because I am experiencing a trigger I never expected. Something I am struggling to wrap my head around. It is so unfathomable, so heinous, the survivor in me is actively fighting the parts of my brain that have been thriving.
The pandemic didn’t help. I experienced food scarcity growing up. The first time store shelves were empty, I didn’t panic. I was so proud of myself. I made it through a trigger I didn’t even realize I had!
Until I didn’t. “Fifteen days to flatten the curve.” The second time I went shopping, and shelves were empty, I felt a flutter in my chest, but I was doing my part. Weren't we all?
A month later, children in tow, I had a panic attack in the middle of the store. The drive home was a blur of tears and prayers that I would make it back home without wrecking the car.
I did what my therapist taught me to. Unlike our abuse survivors of today, I had not been in the habit of outing my troubles. My therapist had told me I needed to be honest, without being dramatic. So, I posted my experience to a small group on Facebook. There are people I trusted—people I actually knew (the therapist advised that was key as words can never replace the warmth of a human hug).
And I experienced something I thought would never exist for me—community support. The best replacement for a family that I could ever have. Within 45 minutes of my FB post, friends began dropping off extra food from their pantries. And I wept again, but this time because I finally understood what it meant to have someone there for me.
It was very therapeutic. I can now walk past empty shelves with a smile on my face, knowing that God provided, once again, in a way I couldn't have imagined. I am no longer afraid of being forsaken.
So why am I bringing this up? What does any of this have to do with the transgender issue? For starters, I was not seen by "the system." As a registered nurse, I now know the signs of an abused child, and part of me wonders why no one reported it. I was bruised, dirty, and wore clothing too small for me. My affect was flat, and I was always afraid when people talked to me. Child Services should have removed me from the home for my protection. My life could have been better (it could also have been worse—the state makes for a poor nanny).
As a mandatory reporter and a survivor of child abuse, I recognize my potential conflict of interest, and take both into account when I "think" I see evidence of child abuse. I’ve only reported to a hotline once, and even then, after making sure my motivation was to protect someone else, and not just deal with a trigger.
Which brings me to my key point—what I am seeing today is child abuse on a mass scale, the kind I am desperate to report, but cannot. I know for a fact it’s happening. All the evidence is there, blatantly on show for the world to see.
I have been reading your stories and watching from afar as a sister-in-law appears to be grooming my nephew (who buys a three-year-old boy Disney princess dresses?). All of you seem like good parents or, at the very least, like me, you are flawed people doing your best.
But so far, I’m not hearing the manipulative themes I’ve been so used to from my own abusive mother. None of you come across as narcissistic. None of you come across as emotionally enmeshed, possessive, controlling, or psychologically abusive. I wish I had had you for parents. I’m sure there would be less violence and self-loathing in my memories.
And yet you are being persecuted by the very people who failed ME. And I am angry.
A few years ago, someone admitted she knew something was wrong with my family. “We couldn’t risk breaking up your home on a feeling.”
But that’s exactly what’s happening now. “Feelings” stopped someone from helping me. And now "Feelings" are what is hurting you, the innocent parents of gender confused children who have mistaken the awkwardness of puberty as a sign of being in the wrong body (what little girl honestly wants to bleed every month when her menses comes? I'd want to be a boy too, if it meant avoiding THAT).
In the past thirty years, society went from “We can’t break up the family,” to “Family is the problem.”
My bruises, bad behavior, dirty clothes, lack of hygiene, and overall timid affect weren’t enough to risk destroying my family. But not using the proper pronoun is? That’s the new definition of abuse? Are you kidding me?!
My mother told me I was worthless. The mothers on PITT are saying “my daughter is worth more to me than my own life.”
My God, I never had that! No one ever told me I had value! No one ever told me I was more than a mistake!
And yet your child - your clearly loved and wanted child - has been taken—and I, the unwanted one, was left behind? What system removes a loved child from a loving family, and leaves the broken one with abusers?
I can never birth a child naturally because of the damage to my body. I spent the equivalent of two years on bedrest enduring three pregnancies while my pelvis slowly began to separate. I have been in pain since I was 14 (again, don’t you dare feel sorry for me—I love where I am in life, pain and all).
But your daughters, with their perfect bodies, are being encouraged to mutilate them in a way that is sure to cause lifelong harm. There is no way, NO fricking way (and I say this as a nurse) you turn labia and vaginal flesh into a faux-penis and NOT experience daily pain. No one can convince me that filleting the flesh is painless.
I would not wish chronic pain on anyone. But the same system that failed me 30 years ago is failing you now. It is demanding that your daughters and sons live with chronic pain as a sacrifice to the alter of “do what feels right.” What happens when what “feels right” changes?
This is all backwards. My teachers never reported my parents. But they are reporting all of you, the parents I wish I had been given. You, the loving parents who actually want their children, do not deserve this. This is wrong. This is evil. The injustice is overwhelming. And I am angry in a way I thought I had dealt with many years ago. It borders on rage.
Anger is why I garden. It brings me peace and gives me time to worship the Lord while I stab at the ground, plant bulbs, and confess my sins (my mother may have been evil, but I am equally capable of her sin, and must keep myself in check). I am angry for you and with you.
Make no mistake: I may not have a child with these challenges. But this fight is mine too. Because I am an adult survivor of child abuse, a community advocate, and a mandatory reporter. And I have no one to report because the very system that is supposed to protect children is the force behind their abuse.
The system is a behemoth. Accountability at that level seems impossible…
What do I do now? The process of protecting children is clearly broken. It was then, when I needed it, and it is now. And I grieve with you, for very different reasons.
You are not alone.
You DO have allies.
Maybe unexpected ones, like me, who see that lying is not loving. That self-harm can be encouraged by the state and even rebranded as a tool for achieving authenticity (whatever that means). That invasive surgery is designed to fix what is broken, not break what is already perfect (I am not the only nurse horrified by this twisting and redefining of words and science).
You are NOT alone.
I see you. I know. I bear witness to this moment in history. And I know there are others. And we are angry, frustrated, horrified, and… unexpectedly triggered after years of personal work.
You are NOT alone.