Facing My Fears: Overcoming CSA – Part I
Posted by Michele Rosenthal
Friday, August 30th, 2013 • PTSD Guest Post: Survivors Speak •
Guest Post By: Roberto Sardelli
I never thought I would be sitting down, facing my fears and overcoming my Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). Even as I have just started writing, my hands are shaking and I am looking over my shoulder. Thoughts are racing through my mind: “Where are the abusers? Will they come after me?” I realize that I have PTSD. What I blocked away for 36 years, I can feel the fear building up inside, the anxieties running through me, tears in my eyes.
Although I was abused at the age of 7 years old, the abuse started at the age of 6 months old. I was always hesitant to open up because of feeling negative about myself, running myself down, and a low self-esteem. I closed myself up, just wanted to stay locked up all by myself. For years, I blamed myself for not having said “stop” for not having a voice.
A friend who follows me on Twitter encouraged me to speak about it; write about it. Words of encouragement that she wrote when in a message to me read, “Roberto you can do it! I believe in you.” Such short, simple yet positive words opened my eyes.
How I Lost My Voice
I was born in an African country called Zambia, on the 20th of July 1969. At the age of 6 months, I swallowed a few sewing pins. At the age of 9 months old, my mom and dad were forced to move to Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe, where I was operated on. The pins severely damaged my vocal chords and one pin punctured my right lung. This was my first operation. This was the start of humility, being pushed around, bullied and the child sexual abuse. I was unable to speak till the age of 8 years old. When I started talking, it was with a stutter till the age of 12 years old.
The Abuse, My Fears
As I start this section, my hands are shaking and I am in tears. Still to this day, I blame myself for what I have been through. Before I started school, I was blamed for what my sisters did wrong. Unable to speak up, unable to defend myself, my sisters would just say “it was Roberto” and, of course, I would be punished. At the age of 3 when this punishment started, I started to block it away, closing up within myself.
At the age of 5, when I started school, the humility and the bullying increased. I was humiliated because I could not speak, and because of being able to speak, the other kids knew they would not get into trouble. I went through this for 3 years, all the while suffering extreme abuses that included sexual abuse.
At the age of 7 I was at school at about 4:30pm, just finished a team athletics meeting. I went to the basement bicycle shed to get my bike. I was busy strapping my kit bag on the carrier, when I was overpowered. Four bigger school kids came up to me and started pushing me, punching me. They then forced themselves on me. I was unable to resist as they used cobra snakes to prevent me from defending myself. Before being left there, the biggest one of the four said, “do not tell anyone about this or else we will feed you to the snakes.” I sat in the corner in a fetal position, crying. I did not go home that night, I stayed in the bicycle shed. The next morning I went home.
As I had no voice, I just kept quiet. I wrote on a piece of paper to explain to my mom and dad I was locked up in the bicycle shed. Two days after, I went to school. The four that had abused me started demanding money. They told me if I did not pay them, they would get me in the bicycle shed again. I began stealing from my parents to protect myself. This went on for 5 months, until I got caught at school for having a $50 (Rhodesian) note on me. For a 7 years old, it was a lot of money. Once again, punished for protecting myself from abuse. I got 6 whippings with a whip from the principle of the school, and when I got home I was belted from my mom and dad. I blocked it all away, in a box, in the back of my mind.
At the age of 8 years old, finally able to speak, I was humiliated because of my stutter. All the school kids laughed at me, saying, “are you stupid, talk properly” or “you should go to a mental school, you do not know how to talk”. Such would be the beginning of another 4 years of hell. I got to the point where I closed myself up. I had no friends; I did not want any friends. I was afraid of abuse.