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 be a five year process either. Millions of other survivors around the worlds entire lives 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: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Healing From Emotional Abuse. I just wanted to remind everyone that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and to be aware of what’s happening in your community. Your local rape crisis center should be holding several events, including a Denim Day and a Walk A Mile In Her Shoes and various other really fun events. Even local colleges will have some. Look into them. They’re a lot of fun to partake. There’s just a ton of fun activities and events to do around town to support your community and support your local survivors and be involved. As you know, for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I’m doing live interviews with survivors every week. Today we have my amazing friend Kendra, she is a phenomenal champion. She is so strong and she’s overcome some really horrific events in her life. And I’m so honored to have her on here. So welcome Kendra.
Kendra: I was I think 11 years old. So, I was in the fifth grade. And I had met a friend she was new to our school new to my class, and we got along really well. And we would walk home from school every day together. And that quickly turned into she would come to my house after school; I would go to her house after school. And we spent pretty much all of our time together when we weren’t in school, or doing other like family related things. And we kind of had been building up building up building up. And finally, we decided like, oh, let’s have a sleepover. So of course, like her parents cleared it. My mom cleared it and it was like the one friend who parents my mom had never met before. So, she was a little bit hesitant, but it was literally a block over from the house. She’d met the girl, she felt very comfortable. She knew that if anything happened, it was within walking distance at home, maybe two to three minutes. So, she okayed it and we had just like a normal night. What girls do. We ate Top Ramen, we watched Halloween. And we went to bed and we were sleeping.
And I woke up I have no idea what time it was. I woke up because I kept feeling something tickling my leg. That made me very uncomfortable and I kept thinking there was like a bug on me or something. And I kept kind of just brushing my leg and swatting it away. And I also noticed it was really, really cold. And I had my back turned, I guess towards like the outside of the bed. And I woke up and opened my eyes, I could see the window was open and I could see that the TV was on, which wasn’t abnormal to me. We’d fallen asleep watching movies, the window being open was a little bit weird. And I remember thinking that. I rolled over and there was nobody there. So again, I thought, okay, I don’t know what’s going on. I just kept brushing my leg And I fell back asleep. And I don’t know how much time had passed But I woke up again. Because from the waist down, I didn’t have clothes on any more. My shorts and my underwear had been pulled completely down And I kind of sat there, my eyes barely open. And I just remember, I don’t know what was being played on TV. But I remember the background being really blue in the whole room was illuminated in blue. I opened my eyes and there was a man sitting on the edge of the bed. And he was just running his hands up and down my legs. He had lifted my shirt up. And immediately I remember thinking, I’m in trouble. Okay, I can’t do anything. I was so terrified in that moment to confront this man. I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know what was going on. And so, I tried to play it off. As best as I could as an 11-year-old girl, of like rubbing my face like I was kind of waking up and like, pull my shirt down and try to pull the covers up. And also try to scoot a little bit further into the bed and close to my friend. And I was successful in doing so. I kind of got away from this man and he got up and he left the room. I can only presume to go to the bathroom. And I pulled up my shorts quickly and I shook my friend and I just was trying so hard to wake her up. I kept saying, “There’s somebody in your room, there’s somebody in your room, there’s a man in house, I don’t know what to do.”
And she was out cold she did not wake up. And I could hear him coming back in and so I just wrapped myself up in the covers and pushed myself as close to her as possible and he continued to sit on the edge of the bed and try to touch me through the covers. But I just kind of kept tossing and turning. Didn’t go back to sleep for the rest of that night. No idea what this man looked like. I’ve no idea who he was. The next morning I mentioned to my friend when she woke up, I said, “Hey, there was somebody in your room last night, you know anything?” She said, no. I woke up a few times there was nobody in here. “Like no, there was, you know, watching something on TV.” And I remember being really uncomfortable and just packing my little bag as quick as I could and getting out. And I got home and went to an event just like a family event. And I told my cousin. I remember just feeling really gross and dirty and scared. And I just told her, I said, I don’t know what happened like he took my clothes off. I don’t, I don’t know. And she kept telling me, Kendra, you have to tell somebody. I was like, I can’t help but I’ll be in trouble. You know, like, I was wearing shorts. And I’m blaming myself at 11 years old for wearing pajama shorts to bed. And I, you know, immediately thought to myself, if I had worn pants, or if I’ve had socks on with this wouldn’t have happened. I don’t know why my brain was wired that way at such a young age. But it was. And the entire day I kept telling my cousin No, it’s okay. It’s okay. And then my cousin said no chance. I said, No, I made it up. I made it up. Nothing happened, nothing happened. Because I was afraid, I thought I would be the one in trouble. Like, I was the one who chose asleep over. I was the one who also let it happen. I didn’t confront him. And so, in my mind, I thought, I’m going to be looked at like you let it happen, like this is your fault. So, several hours of convincing went by, and my cousin finally said, if you don’t tell your mom, I will. I said, Okay, so she walked upstairs with me. I told my mom. And from there, it’s kind of a blur. I don’t really remember all the details. I remember the cops being called, I had to disclose everything that happened. I remember riding in the back of the police car to show them the house because I didn’t know her address. And I don’t know what happened if they ever found out who it was. I do remember my mom mentioning a few months later that, you know, she had stayed in contact with the officer that we reported it with, just kind of follow up. And they had mentioned they have a suspicion about who it was, like some family member in the house. But nothing was confirmed and then nobody in the family had come forward. They all said that, that member of the family was not living there. They hadn’t seen him in a while and I think the worst part for me was I went back to school that Monday, and she knew what happened and she didn’t look at me. She wouldn’t talk to me. Her birthday party was a few weeks later, and of course, I wasn’t allowed to go. She kind of made it known to like all of you girls in our class, like, Oh, yeah, she made up some rumor about my family. And it wasn’t until the week after her birthday party. And I just remember my little heart broke for her. I was walking home from school and she ran up behind me and she got my attention and she was crying. She said I’m so sorry, I didn’t believe you.
So, it happened to me that night at my party. And I just remember, like, I have chills now. Like recounting that. Several years later, I think I was in junior high. She actually attended my junior high and we were in a class together. And of course, I approached her like, Hey, you know, do you remember me? And she’s like, No, I don’t remember you. And she denied ever knowing me. She denied ever being friends with me. And I was kind of like, that was kind of it for me. It’s like, okay, either, you’ve gone through something far more traumatic, and you’ve really blocked it all out and you truly don’t remember, or you’re embarrassed or something else has happened and you don’t want to associate with me and that’s fine. So, here’s where we just kind of cut all ties and never saw her again.
Marissa: I’m so sorry. That happened to you. Oh my God, that’s such a painful story. I hate it. I’m not going to lie.
Kendra: It couldn’t. And I always think to right, it could be worse, it could be worse. And I’m grateful it didn’t go further. And I’m grateful that whatever he had planned if he had anything else planned, he stopped. But yeah, it’s like I wouldn’t wish that on anybody in any situation,
Marissa: Right? That’s so scary. You’re in a place you don’t know. It’s a human being you don’t know and have never seen and nobody believes you. And everyone’s trying to convince you that your will not your family. But can you know, your friend is trying to convince you it wasn’t true and their family was protecting, that’s horrible. And for an 11-year-old to already be pretty much conditioned to believe that it’s their fault, no matter what it speaks so, so loud about our society and how we conditioned people. Thank you so much for sharing that.
Kendra: I think what’s crazy to me too, is it didn’t come up until several years later in therapy for something completely unrelated. You know, talking about past trauma and things like that. I was asked to tell my story. And halfway through my story I said, and it’s not like the pajama shorts were short, like, like they were long. And you know, my therapist said no, don’t. Like don’t make that excuse. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing. And I think that’s like I don’t know; maybe other people feel this way maybe they don’t. But I think that’s the thing that’s so tricky about trauma is no matter how much healing you do and what processing you go through, there’s always kind of those little things that just slip out of if I had done this or that that underlying tone of guilt and shame that just come along with it.
Marissa: I think you’re totally right. They don’t go away. It’s never really addressed. You know, we say, oh, it wasn’t your fault, doesn’t matter what you were wearing. But there’s no healing with that, you know, I can think of 1000 reasons why my assault would have been my fault. But not really, because I had no control over the situation. Like you did. And I think that a lot of people agree with us that it’s, all about how we condition it. And we ignore the little things when we’re trying to heal the big picture, those little things are still seeds that are still planted, right? What did you do? Because you are you seem at least very well adjusted and stable. You know, I don’t know what happens in your head. But, you know, what did you do to heal from it? Like, was there anything that you tried that worked really well, for you?
Kendra: I think what was hard is, at 11 years old, I didn’t understand the impact that it had on my day-to-day life, or what it was going to do down the line for me. I was very fortunate in the sense that I had a supportive family who, you know, immediately addressed the situation. My mom offered therapy or different outlets like that, because she knew that she couldn’t be the one to do all my healing. And my little 11-year-old mind, I was like, No, I don’t, need that I think I’m fine. You know, I want to get back to my normal life. I wanted to be able to sleep overs again. I think that, the trauma aside, my social life and my social class at a really critical point in my life (I was getting ready to be out of elementary school and get into junior high with a new friend group), that was being disrupted in a very bold way. And so, I didn’t do anything for several years. And it really wasn’t until seven or eight years later, when I started to address, “Oh, I’m uncomfortable around them. So uncomfortable.” Or if somebody brushes my thigh, like, I’m triggered, and I just coil up. And I never associated the two together, I just thought, Oh, I’m just shy. And I’m introverted. And I just rather not confront people. And so that’s kind of when I was, I was open about it. And I found some other people who had gone through something similar. And I then went to therapy for, like I said, different trauma and a lot of things started to come up. Like, I’m afraid of men, I feel like I have no power like that stuff started to come up. And just figuring out different avenues, things like writing, and we did a lot of you know, kind of sort of like telling a different story to myself using objects and getting, you know, an unbiased third party’s view on that to kind of help really frame everything differently for me. And then it also came up I think I allowed not necessarily abuse but a lot, a lot of really inappropriate behavior in my teenage years that I thought, Oh, I had a friend that kept asking, “Just lift your shirt up just flashed me.” And I was really uncomfortable and really triggered by that and I didn’t know why I couldn’t explain it and so, I did it. And as I was doing it, I was crying. He’s like, what’s wrong? What’s wrong, I was like, I don’t know, like, I’m uncomfortable, I’m really uncomfortable. So, I think I didn’t have the wherewithal to stop a lot of that In my teenage years. I think therapy was a big outlet, I would say when I was 17-18. And over the last few years, just kind of going back through that and talking through trust issues and trauma and why I view things the way that I view them. And then also never putting myself in a position where I feel like I could be compromised. If I’m ever in a position I’m uncomfortable around somebody I make sure somebody else knows. And I get out of there as quickly as possible. And I don’t stand for anybody treating me a certain way or telling you to do something or asking me to do something where I’m uncomfortable. I kind of identify those triggers when they bubble up and I just I get out of a situation as quickly as possible.
Marissa: That’s awesome. And that’s really smart. Being situationally aware is very underrated. It’s never ever, ever the survivor’s fault in any situation ever. But there are very good ways to get yourself out of compromising situations just by being situationally aware. And I love that you always let somebody know when you’re uncomfortable and get out as soon as possible. A lot of people, at least from what I’ve learned will just stay silent because they don’t want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable, or burden anyone and they don’t want to be known as like “that guy.” So, it’s so much better that you have a like a routine and like a system and you know, your worth and you know where you stand and you get yourself out of it to keep yourself safe. That’s amazing. I want to go back to that object thing you were talking about was I’ve never heard of that. And I’m so curious. What is it?
Kendra: So, we it was like just a really big sandbox. And she basically sat me down and I had objects at my disposal and they were small things like little figurines, houses, shapes that I could use. I just had the sand and I was able to play with the sand, she said just had to get it to where you want it to start. Whether it’s bumpy, you want to spell something in it, you want to completely flat? However you feel good with the sand. Then think through a situation in your life, or think through and in this situation, part of it was because I was suffering trauma at being from being robbed at gunpoint by a male. And so that’s for me was like a really prevalent thing, right? Like, I’m very uncomfortable around males. And I feel like, like, I don’t have power in a lot of those situations. So that’s kind of what we were playing out. So, she wanted me to get figurines and kind of highlight, okay, so like, in any situation where you’re uncomfortable, what is the male use an object to describe the male use an object to describe you. And it became very apparent, because I think it was like a big GI Joe style figurine that I put in the sandbox for a male. And I picked the smallest, most fragile, infant looking figurine for me. And I positioned us very closely. And of course, I’m doing a lot of that subconsciously. I’ve got a safety net, you know, maybe a few inches away from me, but I’m closer to this male that has all of the power. And just a lot of dark shapes and a lot of dark fingers behind him. Just kind of talking about being fearful and of course, as I’m doing this, I’m just thinking, right, this is how I feel in these situations. And she was able to really help me break it down and think through. Okay, so if you’re in a situation you feel this way, what do you have in your back pocket? What tools can you pull, and if you’re looking at these figurines, what could be helpful for you. And that’s where some of the things like telling somebody, I’m uncomfortable, finding your voice, like not being afraid. And now, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. And if you’re in a situation where you’re uncomfortable, nobody’s going to care about you, but you So stand up scream, make as much noise as possible and at the end of the day, you probably won’t regret it. And so that’s where I learned a lot of those things is okay, you know, like, it’s not just me, if I’m in these situations, I’m not by myself, I’m not weak, and quiet. I can, stand up and I can move and I can make noise, I can get other people involved, and I can pull myself back into my safety bubble at any point. And that was extremely, extremely enlightening for me.
Marissa: That’s amazing. I love that that you said nobody else is going to protect you. But you are nobody else is going to care. But you. So, you do you need to be your biggest advocate and your biggest ally. And who cares if you scream and piss people off and you know, look silly for a second. You’re keeping yourself safe. And that’s the most important thing. Awesome, thank you so much. What advice would you have? Or would you give to little girls that might be in that situation that you were in?
Kendra: One, always be the person that that you need to be your own advocate. And I know that that’s hard when you’re young, but also find a trusted source and tell a trusted source. And I think it’s so much easier hindsight is 20-20. I remember like sitting on my bedroom floor and playing a game with my cousin and her like basically threatening me, right? Like, you don’t tell somebody I will and thank God I had her in my life. Because if I didn’t, I don’t know that I would have come forward ever. And this has been, you know, nearly 20 years. So, find somebody, especially if you’re young, if it’s an adult, great. But if it’s not like somebody who’s going to help fight for you, and don’t be afraid of coming forward. And I know that that’s hard. And I know, I think now it doesn’t matter, you know, I’m 30, I still sometimes feel that same way. Like, oh, I don’t want to come forward because it’s embarrassing, or nothing’s going to come of it and in my situation, nothing did come out I couldn’t find anybody. I don’t know what happened to my abuser. But I know that my voice may have at some point stopped it from happening to somebody else. And so, remember that, you know, if you’re in a situation, you’re fighting for yourself, you’re also fighting for everybody else that’s going through it. And we’re a lot louder as a crowd than we are as a single individual. So, don’t be afraid to step up and know that there is a community out there that does support you. And you won’t face that judgment and that shame and that guilt. You can shut that whenever you’re ready to let go of it.
Marissa: Thank you so much. That’s all so helpful. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for being here and advocating for survivors everywhere. You’re phenomenal.
Kendra: Thank you.
Marissa: And I’m so honored that you’re my friend. Kendra, thank you so much for being here and for sharing your story with us. You have such an amazing outlook and such phenomenal, helpful advice. I can’t thank you enough for being here. Just a reminder to everybody listening to get involved in your community for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and to support survivors. We want everybody to live a brave, full and peaceful life. Thank you so much for listening and I’ll talk to you next week.
Hey! 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!