Ask me anything about sexual abuse and recovery

Teresa Joyce
Mar 9, 2018

Teresa Joyce was born on the 15th December 1958 the middle child of three. After losing her father at a very young age; this was to set the pattern for the rest of her life. Losing was something she would have to get used to. She still has some memory of her real father but in truth it’s all a little hazy.

Her mother through no fault of her own after that loss had no other alternative, other than to return to her parent’s home with her children in tow. This family unit were to spend only a few years there until the wind of change came along once more. Her life was about to change beyond belief. Her mother was set to meet the man that was to become her stepfather and they moved once more to a new city with the promise of a new life. Hopefully it would be a happy one for all concerned, but it became a place for Teresa that felt far more like a prison.She would spend many years hating not only herself, but everything around her as the years progressed. She swore to herself that she would leave all this behind at the first possible occasion.

No one was safe if they stood in the way of her stepfather and what he claimed was his. She would be abused and blackmailed, whilst unable to stop or control anything going on around her; until she felt that the only way out would be to check out on life completely and it seemed a welcoming prospect. Running from memories of all those years living under his rules, buried so deep within her that she never really faced or remembered until she was forced to do so.

She would find herself in a situation that she had no control over and in the grip of a complete madman, who was hell bent on destroying her life.

She found herself delving deeper and deeper into her own unconscious thoughts, revealing to her memories which seemed so alien. Happy memories for Teresa are something that she holds in very short supply, she always thought that they were in her childhood but that was about to be blown out of the water.

But the problem with opening Pandora’s Box, was that once opened she could no longer close the lid. For many years she carried it along with her – like an uninvited guest at a party that never knows when it’s time to leave, sadly leaving her with an enormous sociological and psychiatric residue.

The onset of a set of circumstances beyond her control would stamp its seal rendering her marriage unworkable. Engineered by the involvement of the one man she had learnt to hate – her stepfather.

She would spend many years within the mental health care system; trying to heal under their care umbrella. She would move from a heterosexual relationship into a lesbian relationship. Firmly believing that anything controlled or even remotely integral to men was something she never ever what’d part of again. Today this is her message to you – There is always a light at the end of the tunnel; her aim is to reassure that through her own personal experience.

www.teresajoyce.com

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How does one forgive an abuser? Does forgiving mean there’s really no anger left inside against that person?
Mar 14, 10:01AM EDT0

This is a really interesting question, and not surprisingly unexpected. To forgive is not to forget we do it for ones self and not our abuser, that is s really important thing to remember. The anger we feel within only serves to keep us connected to our abuse, which means that we can never really let it go. We if are ever going to move into recovery then we need to be able to release that feeling. Speaking for myself honestly part of my own anger was with me even if that sounds a little odd. I was angry that I had done nothing to stop my abuse, I was angry because there was nothing I could have done to stop it. That and ever other emotion in between. I was angry with the world and all those that had done nothing to help me, so much anger that it was impossible to know where the anger started and where it stopped. So you see that we have to start by forgiving ourselves in order to forgive our abuser, that may seem a little odd to some but that’s our only starting point. Once we have done so we have jumped over a huge mile stone, it’s then that forgiveness for our abuser becomes far less difficult. Forgiveness is really just letting go of the things that no longer serve us. As long as we hold on to that anger our abuser is still controlling our lives, we have to relinquish that control or it will be forever within us. So my reply to you would be that once we learn to forgive the anger starts to fall away, and it’s replaced with the sadness of our lost years. We then take a look at the years that are still in front of us those that are still left to live. My choice was to live them without my abuse being the only thing that surrounded me, I now feel no angry towards my own abuser because he is no longer important. He had taken so many of my years on this planet and I despised that thought but no more. I’m now left with the knowledge of my abuse without the pain of the anger, because it’s been replaced with something worth so much more, the rest of my life to live it as I see fit. This is process is different for everyone but it’s something we have to strive towards if we are ever really going to be free. So I repeat, forgiveness is not forgetting. 

Mar 14, 10:40AM EDT0
While being stalked by your stepfather, did he ever physically abuse you at the same time?
Mar 13, 3:06PM EDT0

Well I guess the answer to that is a no, nothing could be visible or questions would be asked that he did not want to answer. Psychologically That was a different subject, to include a shotgun being put into my mouth, arranging for my new car to be wreaking on the day of purchase and than having it repaired. Moving on to cutting off his own finger as a a very warped apology to me. These are acts that were not carried out within my child abuse, but later on during the four years that he stalked and blackmailed me. I think that physical abuse would have been a lot kinder during that time. When someone is inside your head like that the pain that you feel is so much deeper than any physical pain. During the incident of the shotgun I not only asked but begged him to just pull the trigger, but he knew that I really wanted him to and that did not suit his needs. To understand just how completely insane things became is far to difficult to try to explain here. I was asked once by a publisher if my book was fictional, his reasons for asking me is that it’s a truth that is hard to believe. 

Mar 13, 3:24PM EDT0
Were you satisfied enough that your stepfather was brought to the police station to be interviewed but was never actually punished? How do you feel about the justice system?
Mar 13, 12:29PM EDT0

That’s a good question and one I’ve been asked many times. The truth is that I was never looking for him to be punished, I was only ever looking for the strength to report him. I guess I needed to say to him that he no longer had control over me, even though it had been many years. Yes maybe he should have spent time in prison, but that was never going to help me recover. I spent so many years unable to show him that I was no longer afraid, that the outcome never mattered just the act of being seen. As for the justice system sadly it fails many, and this is why so many never report their abuse, it’s not easy to feel that you will be believed. Because your abuser has ingrained that you won’t be so deeply in your subconscious mind, so how will those twelve people in the jury see the truth? It all comes down to what you know to be the truth, and the fact you know longer feel the need to be believed. 

Mar 13, 1:26PM EDT0
Why did you wait until your mother passed away before reporting your stepfather?
Mar 13, 5:38AM EDT0

I have touched on this subject earlier but I’m happy to explain a little further. My mother had a very abusive life with my real father he was violent and we at times never had any food in the house, my mother went days without food often so we children could eat. After my father’s death when I was at the age of three she had to move back into her parents house with her three children in tow. She then worked three jobs a day, an early morning paper round at a laundry during the day and a fish and chip shop in the evenings, whilst our Grandparents and family members help to look after us children. This was to stay like this until she re-married my Stepfather when I was seven and we then moved away to a different city, as when they met he was in the royal navy he was then discharged on marriage and then took us all to his home city. I had seen my mother suffer so much and now she seemed to be so in love and happy, with it seemed like her knight in shining armour, from a very early age I had prayed for this to happen so she could have a life that she deserved. I was not able to tell her when the abuse started as being a child I thought like a child, I could not bear to see her unhappy once more I thought that I was the one that would make that happen if I were to talk, and that she would go back to the life she had before working herself into the ground. Would anyone believe me anyway? I thought not as my Stepfather had drummed that in to me being told that I would be sent away if I dared to open my mouth. So in essence I would be telling and not being believed whilst destroying my mother’s life once more. This may sound a little strange but I went through my whole life until my mother’s death desperately  trying to protect her it was as if it was ingrained within me. When the stalking and sexual abuse started to occur when I was an adult northing had changed within me, and I spent four long years trying to keep it from my mother but sadly in the end I could not hold it any longer and I took an overdose. My logic was that if I removed myself from the situation then everything would go back to how things had been, whilst still sitting within me sat a groomed inner child was struggling to be different because as with all abused children this feeling goes with us throughout our life time.

Mar 13, 6:32AM EDT0
Do you regret not telling your mother sooner?
Mar 13, 5:19AM EDT0

No never, I have never regretted not telling her sooner my only regret is that I was not able to protect her from the suffering that this knowledge would bring her, even when she became aware it was at the hands of my Stepfather when he knew that it was over. I had taking an overdose believing that was my way out because I couldn’t see another way, but my mother thought that I had done so for very a different reason. My Stepfather then decided that he would announce that we had been having an affair and that that he wanted out but I would not leave him alone, the result being that my complete family disowned me and that has not changed to this day. I have learnt to live with that and I am at peace after a long journey to recovery with the knowledge that the truth is only really important to me. My only regret is that my mother had to face that pain once again by the hands of someone that professed to love her and she died with that knowledge living apart from that love in her last few years.

Mar 13, 6:48AM EDT0
What do you think are the advantages of telling a story in third person?
Mar 9, 9:23PM EST0

There are many reasons that make it easier for an sexually abused survivor to write in that fashion, it allows us to be one step removed by simply writhing as an observer. We can then write on a conscious level whilst protecting our subconscious. The subconscious mind is where as abused children we store these painful memories, to have any hope of survival. I continue to write that way on my website articles and when replying to emails. It allow me to write whilst not being subjected to the struggle of my emotions trying to take control. In essence my pen pal is the one in control of the keys but I still have a firm hold uponethe reins. 

Mar 10, 1:32AM EST0

What was your mother’s reaction towards this issue?

Mar 9, 4:40PM EST0

My mother never knew about my childhood abouse until I was in my adulthood, at a time that my stepfather started stalking me at the age of 35. I then spent 4 years trying do deal with everything alone, until I could no longer hold it alone much to my great sadness. I wanted to protect her from it all because she suffered so much whilst living, and I never wrote my story until after her death. Rightly or wrongly that was the choice I made. She had a very difficult life with my real father until he died when I was 3 years old, from that early age I felt this protection towards her. It never really left me and to be honest I still feel it today. She had a hard path to walk during her life never really able to find her happiness or peace, I can only hope that she has found it now. 

Mar 9, 4:55PM EST0
Can you mention someone who has being a pillar of strength in your life?
Mar 9, 4:16PM EST0

I met a counsellor in 2010 that really helped me to complete my journey to recovery, that’s when I found the strength to write about my abuse. She told me to write my thoughts down when she was not available, just to be able to get all the feelings and emotions out of my head. I did this for a while and then something happened, I was writing paragraphs and not random words without realising. The paragraphs did not run fromone to the other or make much sense, so I went about trying to organise them differently. Once done I felt a huge amount of emotion flowing out of me and on to pages. I don’t think I went near my computer for a week, it was that emotional for me. When I next sat down I knew what I had to do, I needed to write my story and not just for me but to also help others. It was one of the hardest things that I have ever done, but on completion I felt as if a great weight had been taken from me. That was the one counsellor that helped me find the strength I had been lacking, she also supported me whilst after so many years I felt able to report my abuser to the police. We never know who will cross our paths in life, but I thank her daily for crossing mine. Even though I have not seen her for many years. There is someone out there like her for everyone we just have to keep walking. 

Mar 9, 4:40PM EST0
Had you tried other therapy methods before and failed?
Mar 9, 2:59PM EST0

I don’t think of any therapy as failed because they all have an impact. We take something from everything in life that we encounter, it’s  a little like building a wall before we can climb it. Those bricks stay with us although we may not know it at the time, it may just take time to find that last brick and put in place. It’s never the same journey that we take we all need to find our own way. So take each brick that’s offered, and that day will arrive when we all stand before it complete. 

Mar 9, 3:33PM EST0
What has been your greatest obstacle in life?
Mar 9, 10:21AM EST0

Learning to forgive my abuser without losing myself that took me some time to deal with and to realise that forgiving is not forgetting it’s just letting go of the pain. Only by forgiving can you move on without holding on to the abuse and the pain it insights within. That was the turning point in my life that set me free to walk towards that light at the end of the tunnel. Until I really opened my eyes to the fact that holding on the that forgiveness towards my abuser was only serving to hold on to my abuse I could make no forward movement.

Mar 9, 10:37AM EST0

Do you think society is paying enough attention to the problem with sexual abuse?

Mar 7, 6:11AM EST0

Abuse has always been a tricky subject mostly because it’s not a subject that has not been talked about widely because it’s an awkward conversation, but I feel that this is becoming less so because more and more people are allowing their story to be told. So in truth it’s the courage of the abused that has changing the way greatly in the way that abuse is looked at. There is still much work to be done to press home this subject further and to expose just how huge this problem is and how much more there needs to be done. But let’s just say that we are moving in the right direction and thank those who have already given out so much to address this problem head on we are an ever growing force that will need to be reckoned with.

Mar 7, 7:14AM EST0

Do you believe that certain forms of spiritual healing (no specific spiritual path, any path is fine) may help with recovering from sexual abuse?

Mar 2, 8:11PM EST0

There are so many ways to strive towards recovery and heal our past abuse. Nothing should be over looked, and I am sure that spiritual healing is for some the right way to go. Of course there will be others that may not feel it’s the right way for them. In all honesty I tried just about everything that was out there on my own journey, and taken strength from almost every aspect offered to me. The way we receive and perceive any avenue towards growth always has input. If we put something in we will always receive output, what we have to remember is that everything given to us is not always helpful or easy to deal with. Sometimes it will show us a glimpse within the dark, as well as a glimmer of light before us. Both are needed to heal because we can’t over look the pain of our abuse or delude ourselves that it will be easy. It’s hard work and we don’t always jump the hurdles in front of us on the first occasion. So in answer to your question we should turn over any rock or stone that’s out there,,to include a walk the path of spiritual healing. 

Mar 3, 5:19PM EST2
Are you in a romantic relationship now?
Feb 27, 7:51AM EST0

Yes I am all be it with another lady which is where I felt there was safety.  I guess after my abuse from my Stepfather, the my disastrous marriage I no longer seemed to have much truth in the opposite sex. Since that conscious decision I have came to realise, that in truth who or how people are have nothing to do with their gender. That said I am extremely happy as I am now, and I have also been able to carry joy with me from the outcome of my marriage.  The love and comfort from my son and five Grandchildren, they are God’s blessing. 

Feb 27, 9:02AM EST0
You talk about yourself in the third person. Do you find it makes telling the story easier?
Feb 26, 9:35PM EST0

I guess for me at the time I started writing it was the only way possible, I felt so very separate from my damaged inner child. It was as if I had to say the words for her because she had never had a voice of her own. That voice had been silenced so very long ago. Today I feel completely different but I choose to continue with that style of writing. We each find our own way forward and how we reconcile with our past, what works for me may not work for another. In answer to your question it wasn’t easier, it was going to be hard work whichever way I chose. Writing down your worst nightmares aren’t ever going to be easy, but we each choose a way forward that we are able to deal with. There are many roads to walk down towards recovery, there are many styles of writing as there are people. 

Feb 27, 9:25AM EST0
How long did it take for you to see the light at the end of the tunnel, as you said?
Feb 26, 6:36PM EST0

I think I spoke a little about this earlier but to continue in that vain. There is no yard stick to measure our progress towards that light. You don’t just one day open your eyes and see it clearly before you, it’s a process that has no end only forward motion. As this happens the light becomes brighter with each hurdle we jump over, and those hurdles will always be out there. I’m still following that light which brings with it strength within my being, it will never now be extinguished because I hold it within myself. When you reach that place in time the light becomes internal and seen always. 

Feb 27, 9:40AM EST0
Have your siblings been a helpful factor in your healing process? What is your relationship like with them?
Feb 26, 10:59AM EST0

My siblings never know about my abuse until I was well into my 40’s and they have never really believed that my abuse ever took place at all. As for my relationship with them now we don’t really have one. I was the middle child of three and always felt a little detached from them. I never really understood why as a child, but in my adult years I’m sure that my abuse had a indirect result As an unrecognised abuse victim whilst children we hide from the gaze of others and ourselves. We create a world that we can survive in within our minds, where we take a kind of alternate position and go there repeatedly. So I guess what I’m saying is that as children we never made a connection, I always felt completely alone. 

Feb 26, 11:20AM EST0
How do you help someone who is struggling see the light at the end of the tunnel?
Feb 26, 5:51AM EST0

That’s a difficult and a problematic question, mainly because we are all very different people. The answer although it may seem like I’m being a little  vague, that is not my intention. We all find our way differently at times it takes many years to arrive at that light. Although, as we learn to let go of our past abuse a glimmer starts to shine through. For me that happened after an exhausting and very long procedure, of simply not giving up the struggle. So many visits encountering many Psychiatrist and counsellors. Our first second or third visit may not be the right one for us, but there is someone out there that in time will point you towards that light. We have to adapt a kind of tunnel vision towards our intimate goal, somewhat like creating a bubble around ourselves. See every step as a positive step even the tiniest is still progress, in a way I guess we have to act a little selfishly to hold together that process without distraction. But trust that there is that someone out there that will help you deal with everything painful that you hold within. But I’m aware that trust is somewhat difficult when you have suffered from abuse, we have to learn to trust our instincts when we feel we could never rely or listened to them before. But that feeling was imposed upon us in order to confuse and control by our abuser. Start to believe that you mattter and whatever life throws at you you can deal with it. Because lets be honest you have already dealt with the devil themselves, keep working on yourself and in time you will win through. 

 

Feb 26, 9:02AM EST0
Do you have a support system? Who has been your rock these past years?
Feb 25, 12:52PM EST0

Well in an ideal world there would have been a support system, sadly for me that was not the case I dealt with my abustive past alone. But I am now a very strong person simply because of that fact, so in truth maybe that was a blessing. My rock was my inner child, because she was no longer left in the dark alone. I gathered her up and we are now walked together on that path to recovery. 

Feb 25, 1:31PM EST0

What does the future hold for Teresa Joyce? Where does she see herself in the next 5-10 years?

Feb 25, 12:39AM EST0

Continually giving back to others that need to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, this is now my life’s work. So many people out there need a base or structure to build from, I’m happy to continue to provide that. I all honesty that is still a two way street at times. I will continue to be a radio guest to spread my experience further, because recovery is possible for all even if it’s painful. 

Feb 25, 12:53AM EST0
How did you begin to heal? What therapy method worked?
Feb 24, 2:30PM EST0

I spent many years looking for the answer, I saw so many councillors and psychiatrists, but it all came down to finding the right one for me. There were many false starts, at time’s leaving me standing at the starting blocks. But eventually I found that someone that I could relate to and really open up. Even that took its own sweet time, and the progress  at the time was very rocky. So I guess the answer to your question was that it was time and error, until  one day I found that person that was right for me. It was then that I wrote my book, and although at times was extremely difficult it helped me immeasurably, putting it down in words was as if I was purging my body, and somehow leaving it there in black and white. There were so many days that I was unable to write, because it was a painful experience. But the day I reached that very last paragraph I felt like a different person. Then I stated be a guest and radio shows where au found so much camaraderie, I then set up my website so I could continue to reach others that had had suffered through abuse.  I will answer many emails on a daily basis, where my strength continues to grow whilst relating. I would have to say that all these things helped on my journey to recovery, which helped me the most would be a stab in the dark,  but if I were to hazard a guess then it would be the writing of my book. 

Feb 25, 12:29AM EST0
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