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Abuse as a child: “To heal, I had to break my silence”

BRIGITTE.de reader Gisela Föllmi (57) was severely abused by several men as a child. It wasn’t until many years later that she learned to talk about it – and to heal.

On a Saturday, the courier rings the bell to wake me from a deep sleep. With a beating heart, I open the package and hold my book in my hands: so many different emotions in the same moment! It is unbelievable how many tears, misery and horror I went through while writing my story. And now there are tears of joy!

The memories came out bit by bit

A year and a half earlier, a bunker had literally exploded inside me. A cruel and unimaginably brutal memory from my childhood surged out of my core: the soles of my feet were burned with cigarette embers. As punishment for a little disobedience. I was four years old then.

That got everything rolling. Bit by bit they came, the memories. Also the memories of sexual violence. About the first time I was sold to a man when I was seven. About how my stepfather raped me. About how my mother didn’t just look the other way, but supported everything.

Suddenly I couldn’t keep silent anymore

Then it came, the overpowering thought that enough was silent now. I had to learn through a lot of violence in my childhood that speaking was life-threatening, but suddenly I could no longer remain silent. I finally wanted to face the abysses of my deeply traumatized childhood soul. Illuminate everything, remember everything, view everything. And then try to find a way to make peace with me.

I started writing everything down. At first I couldn’t speak out about the terrible sexual violence that had been done to me. I was only able to put the incomprehensible into words when I was writing. In this way, over time and within the protected framework of psychotherapy, I was also able to talk about it.

In order to process what happened to me, I pushed myself to my extreme limits. As I wrote, I immersed myself again in the actions of that time, sensed, tasted, smelled, felt. This immersion is awful, but it has become the most essential thing. Because that’s the only way I’m able to remember everything in such a way that I can put it away – in tiny bits.

Practice self-love – every day anew

Accepting how damaged I am helps me live a good life today. Standing up for myself and saying no when I mean no helps me love myself. But what sounds so easy is difficult and a conscious decision every day: “Gisela, you are adorable!”

The subject of sexual violence against children is present in the media. Nevertheless, hardly anyone knows how, fifty years later, victims are still ashamed, disgusted, and having nightmares. Dealing with me as a partner is often very demanding.

Live instead of just existing

It would be nice if my openness could help protect children from violence. It would also be nice if I could use my personal struggle to encourage other affected people not to remain in the victim role.

Deciding to step out of the shadows of the abused child and into the sunshine is worth every effort.

And it helps not only to exist, but to live. For me, life means making bread, mustard, pastries, butter and jam myself. For me, life means rescuing an earthworm, being aware of the flowers in the meadow and being happy about the bumblebee that lands on my T-shirt. Life also means being able to laugh heartily and being loyal, honest and upright.

It took 50 years, but I made it! I live! The only reason I can say that today is that I broke my silence. The result is in my hands today – my book!

© Wortseh Verlag

The author: Gisela Föllmi was seven years old when her stepfather sold her to a man for the first time. She didn’t have a chance to fight back. Not against this assault and not against the assaults of other men. And certainly not against her mother’s. As a dependent child, she had to remain silent. In order to survive, Gisela split off the traumatizations, sunk everything in her inner closet of bad things. But they remained omnipresent due to the extreme tension involved. Looking back, Gisela Föllmi says: “I couldn’t stand myself and life and I never knew why.” Once she realized that, it was years before she could talk about the unspeakable. Gisela Föllmi is married and lives in Switzerland.

Bridget

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