Can you heal from abuse? What do I do after leaving my narcissist? What does a healthy relationship look like? These concerns cross the minds of over 20 people every minute; over 28,800 people every day. And the sad fact is, we still don’t talk about it enough. Healing from Emotional Abuse isn’t a bandaid situation. But it doesn’t have to take years either. The lives of Millions of other survivors around the worlds have been impacted by their narcissist. Yours doesn’t have to. To show you how to live a free, confident and peaceful life, your host and Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, Marissa F. Cohen.
Marissa: Welcome back to Healing From Emotional Abuse. Today I have on my very amazing friend Ally Valdez. Ally is a 23-year-old Brooklynite working for child preventative welfare. She’s a champion and an advocate for other survivors. We go way back to 2016. When I interviewed her for my first book, Breaking Through the Silence: The Journey to Surviving Sexual Assault, I adore her spunk and her passion for helping other survivors find their voices and overcome their trauma. Welcome, Ally. Oh my gosh, I’m so excited that you’re here today.
Ally: Thank you so much for having me. This is the best way to spend my Tuesday, honestly.
Marissa: I’m so happy to hear that. Well, let’s get started. So, if you don’t mind, tell us your truth.
Ally: Okay, yeah. So, I was a freshman in college. I was only it was like October; freshmen start like end of August. So, I was a baby. And when it happened, I was hanging out with some friends. I met this guy or he slid into my DMs on Facebook, and wanted to hang out. And I was like, okay, and he was like, Oh, you want to smoke? And I was like, Sure. So, my friends and I, we went to my room with this stranger who was like a senior. So, we thought we were so cool. Or at least I did. And he kept turning his back whenever he would pack whatever we were smoking out of. And, you know, he kept mentioning now he had two different types. My friends got really sick. And started tripping like bad. They left, because they lived like a few dorms down. And then he, you know, I lay down, I kept telling him like, I’m not down to hook up. That’s not me. And he put on this trippy music and I kept like, getting like, I felt like I was like, you know, when you’re getting hypnotized, and you go deeper and deeper and deeper. That’s how I felt to the point where I wasn’t cognizant of much. He started touching me, I was like, No, no, absolutely not. My instinct, because I’m a creature of routine was like, Okay, I’m going to go turn the lights off and get my PJs on at 3am. And I did and I texted my friend and I told her, I was freaked out. I got back in bed, I would get up to text her get back in bed. I would get up to text her. And she kept asking me if I want help and I was like, No, I got this. Then I don’t know how much time passed. I blacked out for a little bit. And he was on top of me, and I was freaking out.
So, when you’re being assaulted, your lady parts are absolutely like, you know, yes, because it’s physiology. But in my head, I was vocalizing like, No, no. I have a childhood trauma of issues with my dad. So, I was like, screaming Dad stop. And he took that as like, let’s go! I don’t remember how much time passed in between those. I took a Snapchat and was like, I don’t want this but like a bunch of negative emojis. I specifically remember I used a hammer. I looked at a hammer the same way again. And then I woke up the next morning 6am and saw putting on his pants and dipping and I passed out didn’t go to my math class. That day, I went to a therapy session by texting my friend that like something happened last night. Can we meet up? And we did and she walked me to my therapist appointment told my therapist at school what happened they sent a cab for me to go to the hospital. I went to the hospital. I didn’t know what to do. So, I walked into the ER, I was like I was raped. And they were like what? And I was like I was right. And it first was really weird because they had to like beg the SANE nurse to help because I told them that I’d been high and I begged her. I went on the phone with her and I pled for her they called an advocate for me and she played with her. They did the examination and an attorney came over and she handed me her car and she’s like, come tomorrow and I was like Kay, got it. That night I went back to school. All my friends are obviously hovering. And I just kind of shut myself out because I was like, what happened? I called my mom actually and asked her to Skype with me. And I told her it was important. And she was like, well, you should have been more careful. And I was like, I’ve never been so pissed at her before. This is like the breaking point for me. The day after I went to the prosecutor’s office in Bergen County and I told them what happened. I told a male cop and a woman prosecutor what happened. They were like, oh, we’re going to deliberate. I literally spat out every detail I could remember because I didn’t remember anything. So, I was like giving details about my past trauma. I was like literally giving anything I could because I was in a state of shock. They deliberated came back and they told me that I had serious issues. Evidently, I’d clearly been promiscuous in the past. I should go get therapy I left the room. I ran out of the building and I let out, like it gives me chills thinking about like the most blood curdling scream I think I ever did. I go back to the school told them about it. They took this happened in October, like right before hallway and they waited until April to have a hearing, I finally had my hearing and I was like pressing them all those months in between I almost transferred. And they just charged him for pot use. And that’s it. He brought an attorney with him which I was like, that had a girl heated! And then after that I kind of had a mental breakdown. And I was in a relationship after it happened. And him and I had gotten this huge fight, and I was having a very severe PTSD reaction one night in May, right before finals. At that point, I had like, cut off all my friends I was depressed. I was getting perfect grades. But otherwise, I was like on the struggle bus. The only thing positive was like my sorority. And I was like, clinging to that. And then that night, I was having that bad reaction. I swiped at my boyfriend because he came too close to me. I didn’t touch him. I just swiped to him. He called public safety. And he was like, I’m worried about her. And I wouldn’t let him leave the room because him and I were fighting. And he said, the police came and they’re like, Oh, it’s kidnapping. You assaulted him? And I was like, no. And then public safety came and got me that morning kicked me off campus. They said I couldn’t go back to campus unless I got like a full mental health paperwork, basically, like 50 pages of like evaluations, which made it impossible. So, I ended up transferring and yeah. It’s been five years this year. So, the statute of limitations is almost up. I still haven’t gotten my sheets back and they were really nice sheets. So, I think about them all the time. And yeah, that’s kind of it. After when I was in college, I already had mental health issues but this, like exacerbated them to the point where it was so severe. I was hospitalized my junior year because of it. Because I just kept pushing it and pushing it and pushing it back and being busy because being a workaholic is like my coping thing. And it got to the point where it just became an issue. And then yeah, I finished college on time. Ironically, I didn’t get to walk. But I finished in August. So, I was so class to 2019. And yeah, now I’m in Brooklyn,
Marissa: Thank you for sharing all of that. I think that your openness and your experience is really, really helpful for a lot of people. I think that it’s eye opening to see and to hear how poorly schools handle sexual assault, specifically colleges handle sexual assault. And I don’t mean to make this political. But you know, Title IX was put in place to prevent and protect survivors. To prevent sexual assault, and protect students who have been assaulted. And it’s clear that that was very overlooked. And it was swept under the rug as his sexual assault all over the place.
Ally: Yeah. And what’s funny is I had a really good relationship with Title IX Coordinator after it happened. And I think about that regularly I remember when I transferred emailing her and was like, I need like, what just happened basically, and I didn’t get much back. And also the school I went to Ramapo College in New Jersey, had a nickname before I came as Rape-o-Po. When I was there, especially as a freshman, we would get these notifications that public safety had like apprehended someone for like, sexual assault, or whatever. And we got so many my first semester there. It was like, every day something happened. And like, it was always in the freshman dorms, for the most part. And it’s kind of like hindsight, you know? Like, if I knew them. Well, you know, now I think I would have been a little more obnoxiously loud about it. If I know my rights and felt more empowered. But I didn’t have resources. I didn’t know anyone who had happened to until a little bit after it happened. And then when I transferred, I actually met a couple people at my new school who had gone through a similar experience. It was like eye opening. I was like, shook. I was like, this isn’t just a me thing. It’s something I think about a lot. My little sister is going to be a junior in college. And when she went to college, I bugged out. I was like, absolutely not like you can stay home. And she was like, absolutely not and that was like then you could tell everyone what I went through. You’re smart. So, she definitely took it to heart and she told all her friends and now she’s in a sorority. So, I told her whoever she needs to tell. Just do it. I’m not completely healed from it, I realized recently that the statute limitations were going to be up I think it was a few like a month or two ago. I thought about like hard and I freaked out for a second.
Marissa: Did you ever make a report? Or is there like an investigation going on about it?
Ally: No. So when I went to the police, they said that they wouldn’t and investigate it. The school didn’t investigate it. And I didn’t want to hire a lawyer because when people hear mental illness, there’s a stigma. Just like when people find that we make assumptions. And for me, it’s genetic, and that will sometimes overlook isolated incidences that have happened. They’re going to think of that first before they think of who did the thing. And with mental illness. I mean, you can see it. I’ve like gotten brain scans done, because I’m annoying like that. But you can’t, it’s not tangible. I can’t like hold it. So, they say here, like, Oh, she has a DSM diagnosis, they’re going to see that first and then be like, what if she made the whole thing up, which makes me so angry, because if I wanted to make this up, I think I would have thought of a way better, way more Lifetime Movie story. Like, if I want to make this up, I would have gotten like, done some research. You know, like how to been like a way more attractive guy, to be honest. But you can’t make this kind of stuff up.
Marissa: Right, I think you’re completely spot on, especially in the mental illness area. I mean, people immediately downplay the validity of anything that someone with mental illness says, even if it’s unconscious, it’s just like, ingrained in us. And that needs to change. Because people with mental illness are actually way more susceptible to being abused for that exact reason. People target mentally ill or vulnerable people, because they know they are more likely to get away with it. And I mean, 98% of people who are convicted of a sexual assault crime, don’t spend a single day in jail anyways. All it is, is finding and targeting the vulnerable people knowing in their hearts, that they’ll be fine, like the perpetrators will be fine.
Ally: Absolutely. And I think that we also have to talk about the fact that it’s not just people with mental illness, it’s women, or the LGBTQ+ community, of women of color, trans women of color are statistically so much more likely to experience any type of abuse or sexual violence because of their gender, and because of their status. And that for me, we cannot talk about stigmatization without talking about uncontrollable factors. But just talking about race and color, minority women, I forget the exact number but are much more likely to be victims of assault. And for me, mental illness and skin color, It’s not the same. But when people again, they do target more vulnerable populations, because if I had told my story, and a woman of color, I told the same story, I bet my bottom dollar with a woman of color probably wouldn’t have gotten a chance to even talk to the cop. And that has to be acknowledged because my privilege is in this situation. I have had the opportunity to go report it and be taken seriously. But I can’t say that some people would have that for me just makes me even more mad.
Marissa: Oh, yeah, completely. They did a studying across a couple colleges. I don’t remember exactly which colleges. They had two women, a person of color and a white woman tell a very similar story about sexual assault. And the majority of people believed the white woman’s story. And the majority, I don’t remember the percentage, I think it was like 80% of the participants believe that the person of color was lying. It was just disgusting.
Ally: Rape doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t. It can happen to literally anyone. It’s happened to I know older adults. I know guys. It doesn’t discriminate, but people and service providers and authorities do. Part of the reason I ran away to Brooklyn, and because New Jersey just had a history with me that wasn’t fully resolved. And now when I go home, I still think about those traumas. I take the train I think about you know, like, well, everything and moving to Brooklyn. I don’t recommend anyone run away from their problems. Um, but it definitely helped. It definitely put me away from the situation to get more perspective on it because I’m not so like, this is at my mom’s house where I had a fight with her after it happened. This is the train that I cried on when I went home that day. Everything here is fresh, and…
Marissa: Untainted, right, yeah. Which I actually tend to think can be a really therapeutic and good thing. After my abuse. I literally packed up two duffel bags and moved to Israel for a year. So, I don’t particularly think escapism is such a terrible move if it works for you. You have to give yourself space and time to re-evaluate and to reconnect and learn to love yourself again, after abuse. And I needed to leave the continent. I was in a different time zone. Like I was very far away, but it gave me a full year to find myself again to learn who I was to rewire my brain and learn what love really meant. And for you, it was an opportunity for you to rebuild yourself. To reconnect the dots, and find out something that you really wanted to do and something that gave you life again and gave you passion.
Ally: Yeah, so I’m 23. I don’t have kids. I don’t have a cat, right now. So, I’m kind of, I’m not responsible to anyone but myself. I always say like myself, my mom and God, but not even really my mom anymore. And my career is my biggest focus right now because these kids and these parents that I work with are, they don’t realize how much they helped me. When I was working for the foster care agency, I was going through it. Like I was new to the city, I didn’t know anyone, I had these kids, and they were my friends. Like, let’s be real They were my pals. And they made it for me, you know, like that. And the parents having conversations with them. I had one client, she, I’ll never forget her. We had the same initials. So, I was like, this is meant to be we’re meant to be like BFFs. Her and I were talking and she said to me, like, Oh, you can’t make me go to therapy. But I was like, Listen, I go. Literally Three weeks later, she went. And then I had another little girl who was involved in a sexual violence case and she I disclosed to her that something similar had happened to me what but when I was a lot older. I had been working with this girl for about six months, a little over six months. And her energy shifted and it took about one thing for me to say for her to like, let that… I felt it like we were on zoom, obviously… But I felt it lower And I realized that I’m not going to disclose everything to every client. But you know, parents, I’m 23 years old, I’m not a parent. So, your parents are like, what’s your basis? And I’m like, less, and no one goes into social work, because they’ve had an easy life. That’s like, I’m getting that tattooed across my forehead.
Marissa: I wouldn’t recommend that. No, but it’s true. People ask me all the time. You know, I tell them what I do and about my coaching and stuff. And they said, you know, oh, well, how’d you get into that? And I just give them a look. I mean, you know how I got into this. Everybody who does social work. Who does this work. It’s because we experienced it, and we’ve overcome it. And we know how much it hurts. So we want to help.
Ally: Absolutely. And I think that this is the best way for me to heal. Because I have a severe history of trauma. But with that comes a severe history of avoiding my issues and watching Netflix to cope. But I realized that’s not effective at all. So my time with my clients, I really make sure that if I’m having a bad day, or I’m like really stuck on what happened or anything that’s happened, I throw myself into my work. I’m like, let’s get this done. And I do and I immediately come out of that day feeling accomplished. Put a lot of money in the karma bank. And I feel like I did a service to others when a service wasn’t done to me. I wasn’t given a fair shot when it happened. I still don’t think it was fair. But if I can do the work that I would have wished was done for me. I think that for me makes it a little bit worth it.
Marissa: I agree. And I think that now that people are speaking out about their abuse and feeling more supported and empowered, and knowing what we didn’t have, it makes us want to change the world more. I mean, why else would we be working so hard to create programs and a world of speaking out, you know. Of, I Am Vanessa Guillen, of all of these things, these programs, these hashtags are all coming out now. It’s because we went through it and the people who went through it and felt silenced, hated it, and they hated themselves. And we learned to hate people and, hold and bottle up these emotions that are so toxic. That’s enough. I know for myself; I never want another person to go through what I went through and not have a place to turn.
Ally: Right. I 100% agree with you. And I think that also a lot of it has to do with, I reconnected with that ex boyfriend that I was with recently. And I talked to him about it and it was a lot of forgiveness too. And I think that having the ability to give people a safe space, but also forgive. I could harbor a lot but the path of forgiveness has been a lot too because he actually showed up on my Tinder when I was home once and I was like Oh no. And I screen shotted it and sent it to everyone I know. And you know, I look for him in crowds, but I’ve had to learn to forgive that because I’m like if I see him on the Myrtle-Wycoff subway, what am I really going to do? Forgiveness and giving people a safe space the other day I told you, you Went on Facebook, I was out at Trader Joe’s, um, and I came back I was going to take the bus home and this guy in a wheelchair was being so creepy to this young woman. She couldn’t have been any older than me. He was a cute old man at first and it was he opened his mouth and I was like, Oh, no. So, I waited. He was being really creepy. Not everyone has that hyper-vigilance with them. So, I went over to her and I was like, Listen, I’m just going to hang out with you until your bus comes. And the guy pepper sprays me on the side of the face. And he likes wheels off and was like cursing at me. And I was like, Oh, okay. But I felt good. Like it hurt. Like, often felt like I stuck my face to a pan, but it felt good. And that girl was like, so grateful And no one around, said anything did anything. The woman that was like watching. She was homeless. She was like, you better not come to these parts again. I was like, this is my favorite Trader Joe’s. And I was like, I’m not just going to let this happen. So, there I was like, my makeup was melting off, and I sat on the bus and I went home. I called like my mom; I called all my friends. And I was talking to them. I was like, do you do the same thing? One. And are you do you experience that hyper vigilance, too? Because New York is a different vibe than jersey? I think any big city is New York, I literally am in my Sunday sweats. No makeup, hair in a bun looking like a Sewer Ogre and I get catcalled, and followed home. People will drive Follow me on their cars. I asked my friend; I was like this has happened to you. And do you do anything about it? And do you always freak out? Because I realized it’s not exclusively the catcallers anymore. It’s men who sit next to me on the subway. It’s like if someone is it, like someone was in the elevator with me at Target, and I clenched up. It was a reaction. And I realized that that was reaction to trauma. What my point is, I’m not completely over it. Because now at night before I go to bed, I get up to pee. I get up out of bed at least five times, just like I did that night and I haven’t stopped the last five years. I’ve literally had to take like sedatives and like OCD medication to like, make it stop. So, I could just like, go to bed, like a normal person. Some other things I still, you know, it’s a hyper vigilance. It’s constantly thinking I’m going to see this guy in crowds. People get too close to me It’s not fun. If I’m like walking down the street, I automatically have my headphones lowered because I know one that there’s going to be cat collars and chew that there’s a high chance that I’ll be falling home. It’s been five years and I thought that it would be completely over it by now. Oh, you’re going to be cool in five years, like, you’re going to be fine. You’re going to be hot, skinny and living it and I was like, Okay, well, I’m still not over it. So, it’s not a linear process.
Marissa: What do you do that helps you in comments of feeling triggered or feeling like a PTSD flare up? Do you use music and write like, what do you do?
Ally: So, I do several things. I have a lot of dance parties and a lot of like rap battles with myself. I’m not joking earlier today; I found this song Girls From the Hood by Megan Thee Stallion. And I was like, this is my song. So I like sat down and memorized it because I was so anxious about just like life. I learned to cook I’m not good at it. Last night, I was cooking some potatoes And I was like thinking about it And I was like really touching those potatoes, who is boss And I also talk about it. You know, if someone asked me why I’m anxious, I’m like, do you mind if I tell you a story? And I tell them about it. And I make it known. If I have a client that is a sex abuse case, I try to let my supervisor know that hey, there are times I might get triggered. All Child Welfare cases are relatively triggering for me but sex abuse cases now hit. They’re like, specifically in my niche. I always let my supervisor know, there might there might come a time where I’m bugging out. One day I was working I was testifying after court. And I came back to the agency and I just sat at my desk and stress ate like three things of McDonald’s fries, and cried. And my supervisor was like, are you okay? I’m like, you know, the thing I just did and she was like, Okay, well, stress eat your fries. And that’s kind of my coping. But for others, as a professional, I really recommend talking to someone about it. Trauma comes out in different ways; trauma can come out in physical symptoms. So, you could be shaking. You could talk a lot, you could have a high heart rate, you could be constantly dehydrated. Trauma comes out somatically. Trauma comes out emotionally and mentally. So, I recommend talking about it. If you feel like for me sleeping is the worst. So, I take medication for it, if that’s necessary. I also recommend finding support and others because the minute I found that peer that I discussed earlier, she helped me through it. And then her rapist ended up passing away. So, he passed away like right before something where like a legal battle was about to happen. So, I helped her, she helped me. And people I know who went through it, it’s kind of like a, an ally-ship, if you will, as long as you’re not a danger to yourself or others, please do what you got to do. And if you are, please contact 911 or Crisis Text Line or so many resources.
Marissa: You can’t even express verbally, what truly happens to you, but it changes you. And you’re living in your crime scene forever. And the way that a crime scene for a murder, that room is tainted and, it’s the same thing with your body. Like it’s a complete violation of your sense of self; of your privacy; of your personal space; of your mind. I mean, you are totally changed.
Ally: If you want to go into like nerdy stuff, your brain chemistry changes too. Your brain literally rewires itself, your brain chemistry gets off put because you’re trying to re trying to overcome for like the whole trauma of it and the shock. So, you go through that your cortisone levels change, and your brain literally rewires itself to adapt to this new version of you. And that happens with any trauma. And that’s why trauma-care is so important because a lot of people don’t realize that. You go through a complete rewiring. And then if you have injuries from it, you’re going to have scars. So, your body chemistry and your physiology changes when that happens. So that’s why I think it’s so important that you see a provider afterwards. I highly recommend it because you have to get used to the new you, and you might as well have someone by your side to help you.
Marissa: Thank you for sharing all of that. Thank you so much for being here and for using your voice and your experience to help other people overcome their trauma. You are the best and I adore you.
Ally: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
If you enjoyed this podcast, you have to check out www.MarissaFayeCohen.com/Private-Coaching. Marissa would love to develop a made-for-you healing plan to heal from emotional abuse. She does all the work, and you just show up. Stop feeling stuck, alone, and hurt, and live a free, confident, and peaceful life. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Healing From Emotional Abuse podcast, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marissafcohen, and instagram @Marissa.Faye.Cohen. We’d love to see you there!
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