Thanks to our presence on social media, we have been blessed to meet new friends. By sharing their story, they help us heal the world. We had the privilege to do an interview with Karen, a 44 year old woman born and raised on the island of Aruba;
”I'm Karen Medemilia Henricus. I was born on Aruba and have been married for 17 years to Eddison Mademilia. What I really love in life is what I can offer to others. I really love taking the time to talk to survivors, listen to their stories and offer help wherever I can. My heart’s wish has always been the ability to share the less beautiful side of my life. And for that reason, I started writing and eventually wrote a book that came out in April 2008, "Surviving a pedophile" .
When did it begin and when did it end?
The abuse started when I was two years old and lasted until I was 17 years old.
Who abused you?
The first ten years, it was my own dad abusing me. The other five years it was a man that was a close family friend.
did someone know?
Nobody knew about the abuse. And I never told anyone about it during that period.
were you threatened to stay silent and not tell anyone?
My father, abuser #1 is how I refer to him, always threatened that something would happen to my mother if I were to speak up. Abuser #2 used to talk down to me and say that I could go ahead and tell, but nobody would ever believe me. I really believed him, and I was brainwashed to think that no one would take me seriously.
What would the little you have needed at that time?
If I could give advice to the younger version of myself, I would advise her to have the courage to speak up to at least one person about everything that went on; no matter how convincing the abuser can be in his mind games.
How did it end?
The first abuse period stopped on January 22nd, 1988. This was because my father went fishing that day with his friend, and they never came back. The second abuse period stopped on July 18th, 1992, because that’s the day that my mother, brother and I decided to move to Holland.
What’s most important for the child when the truth is acknowledged? what’s the biggest need for support? what kind of support?
Once the truth is acknowledged, the biggest struggle is that after being abused, you’ve been imprinted with thoughts that “your opinion doesn’t matter”. You think you should always stay quiet. You should keep your thoughts to yourself. YOU don’t matter. This means it was such a relief when I could finally express everything that happened and how I feel about it all. And to discover that I DO matter. I am worthy. What really helped in my situation was that my mother believed me right away when I told her what happened to me. What also helped me survive was my faith, together with the psychologists that treated me close to where I lived in the Netherlands. They also coached me and guided me in the process of going back to Aruba to confront my second abuser and explain to him what the effects were from his behavior from back then, and how I feel about him now.
What’s most important for the survivor today?
The most important thing for a survivor is to find one, or several people, that you trust to tell your experiences to. Talking about abuse will give you a great relief in your life, as the burden of the secret falls off your shoulders and the healing can start.
Know that you have the opportunity to create awareness about the subject and be an example for other survivors. But also, it is important to bring awareness about who the abuser was, to avoid this from happening to others.
Stay educated about the subject. Knowledge is power. Keep reading books and articles and watch documentaries. The more you share your story, the quicker the path towards healing. Learning about it will give you the tools to handle a situation that is related to your experiences from your past. Know that you are loved.
I’m so grateful for the path I’m on now. Being able to write about it. Confronting myself with my past. And trying to spread awareness and inform one reader, or several, sharing the story of hope.
My words to you as a survivor: Let us not stay stuck in the past. You are not your past. Work with pride on your future. Let us not stay silent. You are not that incident. In case you are struggling with guilt or shame, it’s not your fault. I’m sorry they failed you. Please know, you are not alone.
Can one heal from the experience?
As a survivor I describe it as a paper-metaphor. I look at it all like a clean piece of paper that’s been crumpled, torn, or stepped on. No matter how hard you try, it will never feel as whole or worthy as it did before.
From the terrible trauma you went through, I have faith in that you can overcome a little or a few steps. For example, in December 2017 at the age of 42 I finally got my driver’s license. I was always afraid to commit to it, as one of my abusers abused me in his car. There are still many things I need to overcome and I’m working on them proudly. Right now, for instance, I’m working on driving by myself, in the dark, when there aren’t many people on the streets. Step by step.
What’s your recommended path to healing?
For my path to healing, I have a summary that I keep close:
Have faith that there is something greater than you.
Find someone you can confide in.
Talk about your abuse to others.
Take time for yourself (This could look like anything you want it to be. A spa or alone time. Once a month or daily, but schedule it in your routine.)
Write. Take up journaling.
Get professional help.
Educate yourself. Learning about it can help understand it better and allows you to heal.
Do you feel healed?
In many areas, I feel healed, but I’m not sure if I can recover 100%, depending on the definition of healing. It still affects me. However, I’m walking the path of positive thinking and I count my blessings. I’m doing better every day. I have healed a lot and try to make the most out of a bad situation.
What advice would you give to The young victims (the younger version of you supportING another child suffering)?
I want to say: “Please have hope. Don’t let whatever happened to you control your life. Don’t give that person that power. Just you reading this interview tells me how strong you are. You survived! And you made it this far. Please don’t think any of this is your fault, because sweet survivor, you are NOT to blame.
What advice would you give to The survivors today?
You are a special person. Lots of events happened to us when we were supposed to be safe, protected and autonomous. Whether it was a touch, a kiss or penetration, abuse is abuse, no matter how long or how many times it took place. It shouldn’t have happened to you. Some of us are still fighting to survive. Some are waiting to see what happens if they close and archive that file. But there is hope for all of us.
What advice would you give The relatives/family/caretakers?
Never demand any child to greet people physically. Don’t teach them to compromise their own physical boundaries for someone else’s sake. Rather teach them about being autonomous and how to set boundaries. Please listen to anyone who is trying to tell you their story. If the abuser is a family member or close family friend, don’t let the victim come close to the abuser again. You take that accountability. Support the victim by accepting that they fluctuate in moods and remind them that they are worthy. Also, get educated about the topic and gather tools on how to support.
What do you think nobody knows about abuse?
People will never fully know or understand how it is to live ongoing abuse or to have survived it, no matter how much you try to understand. It’s not just the events. It’s the impact that continues. Think of all the sleepless nights. The constant living with fear. Feeling unsafe. The anger that pops up with no motive. The tears that come without a particular reason. The cravings to end your life. Wanting to end your life out of feeling worthless. Wanting to end your life because you want the abuse to stop and you see no other way. The impact of the repetition of these thoughts and this behaviour and how it influences someone’s character and someone’s patterns, is beyond.
I want to thank everyone involved for the opportunity for me to do this interview. I know how healing this is for me. And I hope this is healing for you, the reader, too. I hope that the information I gave has some worth to someone. I can’t wait to check out the website. I wish you all the best.
Much love, Karen.
Thank you Karen for your honesty, bravery, loving kindness and sharing your story with us.
MORE FROM KAREN
You can learn more and support Karen and other survivors and victims by buying Karen’s book Surviving a Pedophile: Healing Scars from Incest and Sexual Abuse on Amazon.
Support our project for abused women and children in Aruba by donating to the Family Justice Center.