Bobbie Becerra is an author, storyteller, speaker, and a survivor of child sexual abuse (CSA). Bobbie grew up in a strange world. Abuse was a regular occurrence. It was like an open secret – something known but not directly dealt with – and often explained as “just the way it is.”
Bobbie was in her teens when she first heard a therapist actually call what was happening to her “abuse.” According to Bobbie, it was hard to hear. She didn’t want that word used in association with her mother.
Bobbie continued over the years to look for ways to help herself heal. In her 30s, she found a 12-step group for sexual abuse survivors. At first, it was a lot of work for her to just go into the room. For the first couple of weeks, Bobbie could only say her name, but soon started to share a little bit about her story.
“This was the first time I was openly talking about my abuse in a room full of strangers that actually spoke my language. I felt like I was heard in a different way. There was no fear in my gut that made me feel like I’d better explain myself and tell them that I didn’t invite the abuse – it happened, and it was real. Everyone in that room conveyed this nonverbal acceptance that told me I had nothing to prove. That was a pretty amazing experience.” Bobbie has written a book called Learning to Take It: How I Grew to Accept Abuse to help others who have experienced CSA.
“Deciding to write the book was absolutely one of my best decisions and sometimes life just creates a space for you to do what you need to do. Since I was a little girl, I was always confronting things, always looking for answers, and kept asking questions. I really paid attention to what people said because I wanted to understand and wanted to find better ways to look at life. I took lessons that I could but one thing that was always so present in the world, and almost offensively shocking to me, was this question of why women just decided to stay in abuse. Why not just leave?”
For Bobbie, that question was a punch in the gut with an impact that never went away. “Through the years I was able to talk about a lot of things, but I never had a voice to answer this question – it was just too much to attempt to verbalize. Over time, I was able to start imagining how I would answer. I felt this urgency in my body, an angry moment of thinking ‘If I’m going to answer this, then hold on, this will take a minute.’ And then, I started to write.” When Bobbie started writing she knew exactly what she was answering. “My answer to the question was, let’s start when I was young. I became an abused woman because I was groomed to be one when I was a child. If you are looking at someone who is 25 and talking to her about abuse, well, the conversation is 20 years late. People needed to talk to her when she was five, when she was learning to imagine herself as a woman. Waiting until she is an adult often means she is being questioned and, ultimately, blamed for living a life that she has learned and had to endure for so many years. I hope that sharing my story can help us understand that victims don’t simply choose a life of abuse and maybe we need to start asking a different kind of question.”
To survivors considering disclosing: “Confronting abuse does not mean you are creating pain. If you speak up, no matter how you think it will impact the world you are in, remember that you are not creating the problem. The abuser is the one creating the injury. You're trying to deal with it. That's the one thing that took me years to understand. What my experience told me was that it I speak up, I am making a choice that will hurt people. I never wanted to hurt anyone. I just wanted to feel safe.
Think about your safety and talk with someone you trust, but don't fall into the trap of thinking your voice is adding to the problem.”
“Just the process of writing was an incredible experience for me. It seemed like everything kept coming out so quickly, but it was all the years of questioning that gave me a voice. I wrote for a couple months and then I actually felt myself stop almost immediately about halfway through. In my gut I knew what was happening. Everything I was saying in my writing was genuine and honest and incredibly hard to hear. It was my truth, but I wasn’t alone as I lived it. I thought of my brother. We grew up together and even though this is my story, there is no way I can tell it without acknowledging him and who he is in my life. It was time for me to call and tell him what I was doing. I told him what I was writing and let him know that if he doesn’t feel good about it, I won’t publish it, but I need to finish the work. I have such an incredible gift with my brother. He was amazing. He said ‘Bobbie, I know anything that you write will be respectful. Do what you need to do, and I will support you.’” After that, Bobbie was able to finish the book. It is still something that helps her and is a tool that she and her brother use in their continued work together. As Bobbie continues to move through the healing process with her brother, she also speaks about her mother’s role in the abuse.
“For years, up until my mother passed, I was always looking for her to show up in a way that let me know that my safety was a priority. It felt so confusing because she did show up in some ways. She did everything she could do to make sure we lived indoors and had food and clothing. She found ways to teach me an incredible amount about love and compassion. Still, we lived so long in abuse that she allowed. It felt impossible to reconcile living with both realities. I had to understand that my mom came from her own trauma and the way she lived and told me that ‘this is a part of the world’ was true for her and part of her survival.” She continues to say, “As incredibly painful as it was, I had to learn that it’s not about whether or not my mother loved me, it was about if she had the capacity to show the kind of love I needed. It’s a very hard line to be able to follow but when I can remember that my mother shared with me the kind of love she was able to, then I can hold some comfort.” Bobbie confronted her abuse, became an author, and has found healing and hope along the way. She shares how she looked outside of the abuse and created a life of colors, beauty, and freedom.
“Take time and look at art, hear music, practice math. Looking at things that create questions and make you look beyond immediate answers can suggest that there is more to the world. Maybe what’s in front of me is not the only option. These kinds of questions give me a sense of invitation and permission to look outside of the world I am in which has helped immeasurably in my healing. It helps me to continue acknowledging my experience and to deal with the effects.”