I tell people right away that I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, but I didn’t used to. I held that shame and fear of judgment in tightly for years, a filmy veil of anxiety separating me from everyone else. I didn’t feel I could really get close to friends or even lovers, always holding back this ugly secret. If anyone saw the real me, the tainted, used me, they wouldn’t want to pursue any kind of relationship.
It’s a common mindset after trauma – to be in victim mode and not even realize it. Total nonsense, of course, because I’m awesome. Ha! But this is what shame tells you, one of many horrific stories we learn to believe.
Therapy and meds helped me a lot to overcome those lies, but the damage is incredibly deep, it never truly leaves us. I moved from victim to survivor, but it took a lot of work, and if I’m totally honest with you right now, I still argue with myself sometimes; I minimize, or tell myself that it could’ve been worse, which is just so incredibly fucked up. How much worse would it have to be? I was only 11 when a man stole away my childhood…and then he came back for more.
Eventually, I found the courage to write and share my story, despite the voices in my head telling me to shut the hell up, that nobody would care to read about yet another victim, that talking about something that happened 30-plus years ago would be seen by total strangers as a pathetic bid for attention (when truly, who cares? It’s my story, dammit, and I matter).
I moved beyond surviving into thriving. Writing, no publishing, my story, became such a huge part of my recovery, I truly had no idea the impact on so many others and myself.
That’s where I changed my paradigm and fooled that wretched little voice: I made friends with Shame. She’s been with me longer than almost anyone, and she has a lot to say, too. So, I let her speak, and Broken Pieces was born. I released it in 2013 and it’s still #1 on Amazon’s Women’s Poetry list, #2 on Women Authors, and Top 20 in all of Memoirs, which blows me away.
It’s won gosh, like 10 awards, but more importantly gave rise to a huge community of survivors, and that means more to me than anything else! #SexAbuseChat (every Tuesday at 6pm pst/9pm est) on Twitter with survivor and licensed therapist Bobbi Parish, the #NoMoreShame Project Anthologies (published by the Gravity Imprint of Booktrope), and a 100+ person strong private survivor support group I moderate on Facebook are all the result of that first book. So is the Gravity Imprint!
Broken Places followed in 2015, with more amazing reviews, awards, and top rankings. I’m writing the final Broken book now, Broken People, for a Winter release from Booktrope. Apparently, Shame still has more to say.
I’m still just as busy as ever with writing, business, publishing, my advocacy work for other survivors, and most importantly, being a mom. Beyond surviving, I’m now thriving, though with occasional triggers, I stumble my way back.
My kids vaguely know something bad happened when I was younger – my son will be 11 in September. He’s very protective of his mama, and I love that about him. I’m raising him to be respectful of all women, including his almost-17-year-old sister with whom he bickers constantly over the Xbox and Squeakers, our girl cat. He has a lot of females in the house to learn from!
The lessons are there, though, and that’s what matters; I tell them both often, “you get what you give, and you give what you get.” Give mad, get mad; give compassion, get compassion. Him: Give money, get money? Me: Welcome to Capitalism (and book marketing).
I survived, and now I thrive, because I give what I get.
Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope.
She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.
Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live Twitter chat, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish. She is also the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, bringing stories of trauma and recovery (fiction and nonfiction) to life. Read more about the Gravity authors and their books here.
She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.
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