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: Welcome back to Healing From Emotional Abuse. Today I wanted to focus on a way to heal. A lot of people over the last couple years have told me about roller derby but I have admittedly never tried it. So I brought on an expert today, my amazing friend Lauren, who is a roller derby expert, and also a screaming activist. Thank you so much for joining us, Lauren.
Lauren: Thank you.
Marissa: So would you mind speaking your truth to us telling us a little bit about what you experienced and how you got to where you are today?
Lauren: Yeah, sure. Its been a long, tough, but really rewarding journey. So I grew up in a really small community just outside of Windsor, Ontario. I was a pretty average normal kid, other than being a twin, which is kind of super cool. So I grew up and one thing about me was, I was always a super awkward individual. So, I always say I was an awkward kid, I grew up into an awkward teen and now, I’m an awkward adult. But when I hit grade eight, I remember really wanting to date because a lot of my friends were, and being an awkward individuals really hard, obviously, for me to interact with people I want to date. So hit high school, grade nine, whatever. I had, you know, like fling boyfriends like you do in high school. You know, you date a week, and then you break up because it’s high school. But I remember when I was like, 16, or 17, and it’s weird, I vividly remember the day. I used to run a lot when I was a teenager. It’s not so much now. But I try. But I do like 7k or 8k, which is insane. But I was gearing up to go do a run. And I remember starting turning left off of my parents street. It was summer or fall and I was wearing like, my favorite four years strong sweater, black comparison pants and running shoes. I just put on my favorite podcasts around to. And one of my best friends called me and said, you know, like, I have this friend that really wants to meet you. He thinks you’re really cute and I was like, oh, that’s really cool. She said like he’s older. I remember feeling really excited because I was 16. And when you’re 16 and somebody older notices you, you’re super excited. So did my run and then I ran home and she’s like, “We’ll meet up next week.” So she came, a week went by, she came she picked me up in our car and we went off to Windsor. And I’ve never really like, really got out of my small town other than like, my parents like dropping me off for a roller derby practice and like picking me up. So this was like a big deal to me. Like I got to go to like the big city out of my small little suburb. I remember arriving at an apartment building. We climbed two flights of stairs and we walked into apartment building and it literally felt like the chaos was erupting in this tiny apartment. Various amounts people. I like looked in the bathroom. There’s some guy shaving his head into Mohawk. And I was like, that’s wild but she brought me into the bedroom and like introduced me to like this boy sitting on a bed. He seemed really shy. And like over the course of like the night me and his boy got to know each other. And we had planned to hang out he following week. So did that I was convenient because my friend who’d introduced us lived in my small tiny suburb and would come and grab me and we would go to his apartment because her partner also lived with him. So everything seemed pretty ideal, pretty normal to me. I mean, this person got to know each other over the course of several weeks, you know, we shared our truths or dreams or like fears. I don’t really remember like when it all went sour, but I remember my friend picking me up one day and having like a really strange conversation in the car, about something along the lines of like losing your virginity and I was like what the f***? I was like, Okay, and then like, I was like looking out the window being like, I’m done with that conversation. So she dropped me off and something like was off when we got to the apartment. There was nobody there and there’s always parties going on. I like his apartment, which was like normal and I’ve become like, normalized to it. So it’s like, this is weird. It’s quiet. There’s nobody here what the fuck is going on? And so my friend was like, oh, like I’ll see you later. I have some errands to run. I didn’t think anything of it, I was like, okay. The person my abuser asked me to go for a walk. And I said, Sure, like, let’s go walk by the river, because he lived by the river in Windsor. And I remember seeing rain clouds. So we headed back to the apartment. We got back there and it literally started down-pouring. And he’s like, you want to go like watch movie in my room? And I was like, yeah, sure. That’s not out of the ordinary. So I remember like, going into his room and I remember like, specifically things getting hot and heavy and me being like, I don’t think this is what I want right now. But him continuing, regardless of me trying to put in some form of boundaries. And then I remember like things happening that I didn’t necessarily want to. And me being like, okay, like, I feel really weird after this. And like my friend driving me home. And I was just like, I don’t know what just happened. But like, it definitely wasn’t something that I wanted. But I didn’t necessarily have the language for like assault or rape or like sexualized violence. Because I grew up Catholic. I went to Catholic grade school, and then I was attending in Catholic High School, and there wasn’t much of a sexual health or a sexual education program in my school. As you can imagine, like Catholic schools don’t very much like sexual education. So I was like, I don’t have the language. I don’t know what just happened, which was like awful. And so like, I couldn’t talk about it, because I was like, I know I feel really fucked up. I can’t tell my parents because like, I don’t know why I feel fucked up. But I remember going home and, getting home late and my mom asking, how are you and me saying I just got to go shower. And so, I tried to just shower off the feeling that I was feeling. I was just sitting in my bed and trying to come to terms with happened. Trying to put language to what I had just experienced. But I like couldn’t.
So, you know, we continue to date and it continued to go downhill. Eventually, he became really verbally abusive. He tried to isolate me from people I cared about, the sexualized violence continued on multiple occasions. But, I didn’t talk to anybody about it, because I didn’t know what, it sounds not silly, but it’s because I didn’t have the language for it. I was, I don’t know what is happening but I know what’s wrong. All this was happening kind of pseudo behind closed doors. And I started to act out, you know, at home, and my parents didn’t know like what was going on. So I think we chalked it up to maybe teenage angst. Eventually to graduate high school, which is great. And like I tried my, my shot at college. I went to hair school, but I was in the midst of an abusive relationship. So, I was dealing with that and dealing with the repercussions and mental repercussions and the physical repercussions. So my parents were like, “Yeah, we still don’t know what’s going on.” I was kind of pseudo flunking out of college I was put on like academic probation because, I couldn’t focus in school because I couldn’t complete the tasks because of the abuse I was like facing from this person. So my mom took me to the doctors and my doctor is like you probably have mild ADHD. And I was like, yeah, that’s probably it. That’s definitely it. That’s so it. Yeah. But it wasn’t it was like PTSD. And I was like, Okay, I’ll write you a prescription for you know, Wellbutrin, which is not something I needed. So I just zombied out in college, because I was like, I have ADHD. That is what this is. Yeah, like wasn’t so I continue to kind of my behavior continued to spiral. My parents were like, we don’t know what to do anymore. Because, it was just me and my mom are fighting, like physically, like screaming at each other, like, because she was trying to figure out what’s going on. And I didn’t know what to tell her. And like, it was just not a great situation. So eventually, my parents were like, we can’t do this anymore. I got home one day, and all my stuff is packed up on the porch. And I think at this point, me and my abuser had parted ways, which was great, but like I was still like, really just fucked up from everything that I had faced, everything that it dealt with. So my parents were like, you need to leave and I was like, yep, okay, keep in mind like, the night they kicked me out. I had met my current partner. And we had decided that I was going to shave my head into a Mohawk. And I came home with like a giant like put up, follow Mohawk. My parents were like, no, like, you have to go and I was like, okay, maybe not the best choice in hairstyles. So I packed up my stuff, and called my friend. My friend, my friend came and got me. We had couch-talk for a little bit with friends.
I eventually settled with one of the people that I played Derby with for a really long time. And you know, she was like, something is really weird. Something’s going on with you. Were you sexually assaulted? And I just remember crying on our couch fix. It was like holy shit, that’s what happened. That’s what happened to me like over a year ago, and I didn’t have the language and I didn’t know how to tell anybody. Holy fuck you have it. So we called a sexual assault crisis hot-line. I booked an appointment with my counselor. And she said, I think you need to tell your parents and I said, me, and I think that’s a really good idea. So we have my parents over and I told them, and from like my perspective, like my parent, I said, like, you know, this has happened to me, like I was sexually assaulted by my ex-partner. And that is why I was acting so weird. And I said, you know I’m getting help. And they said, good for you.
For years I was like, it haunted me because I was like, that’s not the reaction I really wanted. But what I didn’t know is they left and like my dad who’s like this, white cisgender Boomer, who doesn’t cry very like masculine, masculine man just balled the whole way home, which is like a half an hour drive for where I was staying. And I was like, Oh. So my parents took time to process that and my current partner came with me to like my therapy sessions.
Roller Derby really helped me kind of get through everything that I was going through from the time that the abuse started, the time it stopped. It was a safe haven where I could use consensual violence to navigate abuse, I was feeling on the outside world and like a really safe queer fem-based space, which I think what’s really important for me to have, and I think role interviews is a huge reason why I’m still here, because I had an outlet, I had a safe outlet to use my body and to use consensual violence to navigate the violence that I was facing outside of the flat track.
So through Derby, I actually got into activism, which was really cool. I started to go to Take Back the Night. And I remember one day just thinking, you know, fuck it. And I wrote something along the lines of like, Me, Too. I’m a sexual assault survivor and that was like, the first time I was like, publicly open about what had happened. And I remember like, survivors coming to me and talking to me about their experience. And I was like, Whoa, like, this happens to other people. This is nuts.
From there, you know, like, I was healing with therapy, I was healing with Derby, which I had the whole time. I actually, like came up publicly, I applied to university, I got into a gender studies program, as well as social justice program. And I actually started to share my story within gender studies spaces, because one of the subjects we talked about with sexualized violence and, that was the first time was open and like a university setting to be, Yeah, man, like I was sexually assaulted, I started to do a lot of activism within like sexualized violence and like queer spaces, and woman based spaces, and really just really started to be open about my story and I found survivors were like flocking to me, this is my story. This is my experience. I found a really good therapist that has helped me navigate the residual physical trauma, even years after therapy. I’m still obviously not 100%. When my partner first met me, it was a shell of a human being, I would wake up in the middle of night crying; I would not be able to be touched. There’s so much stuff. I had, like I had baggage. But I’ve been really lucky to meet a really supportive partner through and through this. And he’s there to be there and support me, to help navigate my trauma. To be a support. He’s been really great.
I find like activism has really helped me share my story and be able to engage and, use something so negative that has happened to me and turn it into this fire that drives me to scream and shout my story until I can’t shout anymore, because I know that there are survivors out there who are still in the closet. We’re still facing abuse. It’s connected me with so many amazing, amazing folks, both allies, and both survivors and experiences of sexual violence. And that’s where I’m at today, I guess.
Marissa: Thank you so much for sharing all of that. First of all, I just want to commend you and say that your story is so empowering and your strength and your passion is really, you can hear it in your voice and I’m so happy that even though horrible things happen to you found your way and you had all of these things in place to help you. And when you found them, you just blossomed and like flourished. I’m so happy that you shared it with us and that you are where you are today and that you’re active and empowering and advocating for other people. So thank you for all of your work. I want to go back just for a second, because I’ve heard so many good things about roller derby and admittedly, never tried it. I would love to talk about that a little bit and like dive into how that helped you.
Lauren: So I actually found roller derby when I was prior to my abuse. So I’ve been rolling Derby probably just before I met my abuser. But it is such an empowering space. It is empowering because it is centered around women, and queer folx, and Femme-identifying people. And a lot of sports aren’t dominated by these types of bodies, by Tran’s folx, by queer folx, by femme-people, bi-women. And I find it gives women, queer-folk trans folk, people who don’t fit into binaries, who don’t fit into normalized sports, it gives them an opportunity and space to use consensual violence as a means of working through shit. You get to hit your friends and skate. And it’s the most amazing sport I’ve ever been a part of.
Marissa: You can hit your friends and also skate.
Lauren: Thank you.
Marissa: That’s really cool. And I don’t think there are enough sports and activities for the LGBTQAI+ community, and women to really be empowered. You know, I’m actively against softball, because I personally think that here’s a big yellow ball that’s not even much softer, but we’re going to throw an underhand at your face. And you can hit it and run instead of baseball, I was always a baseball player until I wasn’t until they said, well, you’re a girl. So you have to play softball. So I love the idea of taking that women and people all people are human and have this need to be active and I think that that’s really cool. Whereas something like boxing, which is usually a picture of a guy, you know, a big bodybuilder guy punching another big bodybuilder guy in the face, where we need that outlet to and although I don’t really condone violence as like a form of healing, I think that this sounds really cool. Because it’s active and it’s a team sport, right? It’s not individual.
Lauren: Yeah, it is a team sport. It is. My Derby team is like my family like they are through and through amazing people.
Marissa: That’s awesome. So through that, you found strength and empowerment and support, right? That kind of prompted you to be more vocal about what you were going through. Because you realize you weren’t alone and you were supported.
Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. It’s kind of funny, like Derby always, I’ve always had like Derby and activism kind of like cross paths a lot of time. And through Derby, Yeah I was like, yeah, maybe I’m not alone. And like, I found activism. And I was like, No, I’m definitely not alone. Yeah.
Marissa: What made me reach out to you about speaking with us today was a post you put on Facebook was an awesome poster of you. Can you tell me a little bit about what that was?
Lauren: Yeah, that was actually the night I was talking about. So that’s my first ever poster that I made coming out as like a sexualized violence survivor. I had made a poster for Take Back the Night. And I was like, “Man, you know, like, fuck it. Like, there’s got to be other people out there too.” So I made it my body my choice but underneath that I put like, hashtag me too, or a sexual assault survivor or something like that.
Marissa: It was cool. It was a picture of a female body. And yeah, pointing to you while you’re holding the sign that said, I’m a survivor or I’m a sexual violence survivor. And I was so like, I saw that picture. And I was so excited. Because that was so empowering and uplifting, and you made something that is so dark in your life.,You made yourself extremely vulnerable, but in a very empowering way. Does that make sense?
Lauren: Yeah, it does. Yeah, I decided that I wasn’t going to let my abuser or the abuse control my narrative or control my life. I was going to take it back.
Marissa: In what other ways have you been active in supporting or advocating for survivors or like activities on campuses and stuff?
Lauren: Oh, man. So we did something really, really cool on my campus this year. I really spearheaded the event. We’re gonna be having an every year, Skate Night for Survivors. So one of my friends actually owns a skate company and they supply rental skates to a roller rink here in London, Ontario. Their skates are very portable so they’re able to bring them to campus, and I worked in tandem I’m with the sexual education coordinator on my campus and we put on a free skate night where survivors could come lace up skates and like it was like a roller disco. We played music and they could skate around.
Marissa: I through my nonprofit, Within Your Reach, would love to partner with you.
Lauren: That’d be amazing.
Marissa: Okay, awesome. So we’ll talk more about that not on the pod. Yeah. But I think that’s such a cool idea. So now you’re taking something that helped you, and that you’re very passionate about. And you’re like extending a hand to help uplift survivors, other survivors. That’s incredible.
Lauren: Thank you.
Marissa: Welcome. I would love if you could give maybe like one or two pieces of advice to other survivors who are still feeling the way you felt where you didn’t know the language. And you were really lost and confused and like couldn’t put a word on it because it is so common, even outside of Catholic school. The public schools, at least where I grew up, weren’t great at talking about unsafe sexual practices outside of you could get pregnant and die like Mean Girls, if you have sex, you will get clamydia and die. Like that’s what we got and so a lot of people feel the same way you felt so what pieces of advice would you give to those people to help them understand that what they’re going through is unfortunately common, and help them out of that.
Lauren: Just know that like, you’re not alone that survivors experiences and victims of sexualized violence walk among you, like the person next to you can be a survivor. Just know that I know it’s really difficult right now to see that you’re not alone. But you are not alone. It’s okay to reach out and it’s okay to ask for help and find people that you trust and tell them if you can. Express yourself. If something is no Katie, if it doesn’t feel okay, then it’s probably not okay. Just trust your gut instinct.
Marissa: That’s awesome advice. Thank you so much for joining us, Lauren. I am so excited to have you on here. I’m excited for everything that you’re doing. And for our future partnership. I am so honored that you chose to speak with us today. And thank you so much for helping survivors in the ways that you are.
Lauren: Thank you for having me on.
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!