PTSD and Re-Victimization Hank Estrada

PTSD, Survivors SpeakGuest post by Hank Estrada

I was diagnosed with PTSD in college for surviving an entire childhood of emotional and physical assaults by a violent alcoholic father, including explosive domestic violence episodes, and 15 years of sexual assaults by my father’s alcoholic brother who lived in our home.  After seeking therapeutic help with these experiences, I found healing and was able to release the shame and false guilt I carried for living through these traumas.

I learned that speaking out about my experiences to those who would listen and understand, helped me to feel normal and sane.  I was able to find tremendous healing when I volunteered to staff a suicide hotline, of which I received invaluable training beforehand.  I learned that being a survivor of abuse was not something to be ashamed of or to hide because these assaults were done to me, by those I loved and relied on for protection.

Years later, I was sexually assaulted by a Catholic priest in college, who is a skilled sexual predator who knows exactly how to groom his victims.  He convinced me that he loved me for the person I was, he showered me with compliments of praise and told me, again and again, how important I was to him and special.  I fell completely for everything he said, promised and did for me, even the sexual contact between us.  We spent an entire summer together, hiding our secret affair until he abruptly left for a missionary assignment in Nigeria, Africa.  He cut all communication, completely abandoned me and caused a relapse of PTSD.  I was forced into therapy to cope with the emotional devastation and it was during this therapy period that my PTSD was first identified and diagnosed.

I never expected to be re-victimized again, especially by a trusted priest.  Fortunately, over the years, I had surrounded myself with positive, healthy thinking and emotionally grounded individuals who also supported my healing journey.  Identifying and understanding my PTSD was the first step to improving my life.  Learning new emotional coping skills to various “triggers” was the second most important factor in healing, especially in regards with close friends and intimate relationships.  To acknowledge and appreciate the personal improvements and accomplishments is critical to our moving forward, regardless of the unexpected PTSD challenges that occasionally come up.  Our PTSD histories are with us always, but we can learn to manage the influences to allow us to live content, healthier, happy lives.  Always look ahead, focus on the positive and know that we’re all traveling this healing journey together.

Hank Estrada is the author of UnHoly Communion-Lessons Learned From Life Among Pedophiles, Predators, and Priests, (Red Rabbit?Press, 2011).  A graduate of Loyola Marymount University, Hank is a nationally recognized spokesman for male victims and adult survivors of sexual assaults.  In 1986, he founded the first national non-profit organization; PLEA (Prevention, Leadership, Education, Assistance) to assist non-offending adult male survivors.  Mr. Estrada’s personal experience of survival and healing are often featured in articles, as well as on TV and Radio talk shows throughout the country.  He is a captivating presenter, consistently praised for his straighforward and personal presentations. 
The ideas contained in this post solely represent the perspective of the author. To contribute to ‘Survivors Speak’ contact Michele.


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