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Elizabeth’s Story: No Longer the Sillouette

I was the one in the shadows, blending in with the wallpaper hoping no one would notice me. The silhouette quietly hiding, too scared to open my mouth and when I did speak, it would be anxious chatter of a child, covering up fear with humor, a deflection of the truth.

I remember the first time being told I had experienced trauma. I completed an in-depth assessment of my early life experiences as part of an adoption application and our social worker at the time, interpreted my life based on my paperwork and interviews. I recall reading the words, ‘Elizabeth has suffered from trauma’. Have I? Why wasn’t I aware of this? I felt I could recite my life in a monotone voice and not feel anything. Did I sleepwalk through my childhood abuse?

At the time, I couldn’t connect the dots to my emotional and mental state growing up into adulthood. I never realized the impact of being sexually abused, emotionally abandoned and how it would affect my mental health. I took all the anger I was too scared to show as a child, from all the controlling, bullying behavior against me and acted the same way, but to the extreme. I had no idea I was suffering with complex PTSD. I obsessed about everything and became convinced my life was a catastrophe, that I was being punished for being a ‘bad person’. From the age of eight, I had a constant desire to overdose and self-harm, I assumed my anger and rage was part of my personality. I didn’t believe I was lovable and would push away anyone that dared get close to me, whilst at the same time, crying out for someone to accept me for who I was.  For so long I wondered what is like not to wear the heavy anchor of shame around my neck as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I spent much of my adulthood trying to reconcile what happened to me with various professional counsellors and psychiatrists telling me it wasn’t my fault.

I wanted to believe them; I really did. I read the self-help books, I also kept telling myself it wasn’t my fault. But did this ring true? No. Instead I carried around a secret burden that I couldn’t eradicate no matter how hard I tried. It followed me wherever I went. As a parent, as a wife and a person living in a world where I felt silenced and misunderstood without ever knowing why.

It was in 2016 when my previous counsellor suggested I take up a creative hobby as an outlet which I agreed to somewhat reluctantly. So, I joined a choir, leading to singing lessons, taking up drama and writing to improve my lack of confidence. This creative haven has been a life saver in some many ways and a positive impact on my mental health. With the support of my drama teacher, I was encouraged to discover my life through the power of writing and gave me a safe space to explore my emotions. I wrote my first poem the day after my dad died. He was also one of my abusers. Writing was my creative tool to express all these bottled-up feelings, anger and pain that I had struggled to articulate out loud.

Poetry has been one of my therapeutic mechanisms of helping me find my voice again and a way of dealing with the emotional scars of trauma. My poems share a part of my journey with some of the difficult feelings around my sexual abuse, the shame, low self-esteem, abandonment issues, struggles with complex PTSD, disassociation and fear. But I also write about my strength and empowerment of taking back my voice. I had never considered sharing my story, the thought of speaking out was terrifying. After reaching my lowest point last year I had the opportunity to go on a short family holiday to the coast. I have never felt such a connection to the sea as I did at that point. I gave all my emotional pain to the power of the ocean. What came back was clarity. Not only was I meant to survive the storm but walk through it with my head held high, with acceptance and recognition of my own inner strength. What also became clear was the overwhelming desire to open up about my journey and experience to give hope and strength to other survivors, which led to me writing my first poetry book, Silhouette of a Songbird.

I grew up thinking I was a sinner for loving my abusers. That I deserved what happened to me for not fighting back or saying no. It has taken me over 40 years to finally acknowledge that what happened to me as a child, was never my fault. That I no longer need to keep quiet. Singing, drama and writing my poetry book about my journey, has given me a voice from an entity of silence. I will never allow anyone to push me back into a corner, forgotten.  My story is mine to share with others to give them strength to know there is light on the other side. Everyone deserves a voice and a right to be heard. I am not only meant to survive but thrive and speak my truth so others can take hope and comfort they are not walking through the storm alone. Today, I am no longer the silhouette, but the songbird.



For all those times
You stripped away my layers
Made me taste forbidden fruit
Forced my hands to do your work
Penetrated beyond boundaries
Hands snaked around my neck ready to silence the sound

For all those times
I never said no.

For all those times
I endured unwanted shadows creeping inside
Felt cold metal of a barrelled gun pushed against my head
Suffered perversion of injustice
Paralysed my breath through restrained fear
Offered my services on a plate

For all those times
I never said no.

For all those times
I quickened my footsteps down a dim lit path
Criss-crossed patterns in the road to shake away the followers
Barricaded my sanctuary through blockades of furniture
Feigned sleep to hasten your desire
Gave you permission without speaking a word

For all those times
I never said no.

For all those times
I didn’t dare scream
Kept quiet
Stayed silent
Never fought back
Ever told

For all those times
I never said no.

For all those times
I felt special
Chosen by you
Thought you loved me
Wanted your attention
Asked for more

For all those times
I never said no.

For all those times
I trusted you
Loved you
Despised you
Feared you
Missed you

For all those times
I never said no.

For all those times
I trembled to speak
Felt ashamed
Pushed the knife deeper in
Faded into darkness
Shattered into broken pieces

For all those times
I never said no

For all those times
I am haunted daily
I speak out
Fear will no longer silence me
My voice shall be heard
Truth will resonate

For all those times
I never said no.

For all those times
I wasn’t asked
I give myself permission
My choice
My body
My right

For all those times
I never said no.

For all those times
I longed to say stop
I am the adult
With ownership
Of my freedom

For all those times
I never said no.

For all those times
You think you won
Of lives destroyed
We will stand strong
United in power
Together as one

For all these times
We will say no.

©️ Elizabeth Shane 01.10.21 (CSA Survivor – author of Silhouette of a Songbird)