Today I talked with a sexual abuse survivor and in the course of our discussion, a particularly interesting point came up. This person wanted to change their last name. From their current name to their birth name.
This child had lived a rough life with their birth parents. After repeated warnings, the state terminated the parental rights. With that action on behalf of the child moved them into a foster care, and then had been formally adopted. At first everything was great so they were happy to change their birth name and take on the adopted families last name. Then after time went by, this same child was sexually abused by the adoptive father. Now that they are no longer living with the adoptive family, safe from the clutches of the abusive parent. Understandably they want to get away from the perpetrator. They want to put the past behind them. Just want to leave it behind and start new. Now they are living with a new family, but want to know how their biological parents are doing.
I mention this because something similar happened to me. When I moved out of the house where I had been living with the perpetrator of my own sexual abuse, I wanted the same thing. Get it behind me. Move out and move on. Everything that reminded me of him or connected with him I cut those ties. I abandoned the rest of my family. I changed my name back to my birth name, (though I wasn’t adopted). Moved out of state, I decided to ignore the pain and wounding, and pretend nothing bad happened. Which did work for a while, as long as there wasn’t any reminders of him.
Through out school I wrote his name as if it were my birth name. At first it felt like it scalded me and I hated it. The perpetrator of sexual abuse for my childhood, my mothers husband. But over the years there were other things I had to avoid to survive, it ended up in the useless memory pile. Since there was no father listed on my birth certificate, legally I had to have something. I ended up with a constant reminder that I was his to do with as he liked. Even though others talked about him to me. They thought everything was okay, so they acted as if I was supposed to be happy he wanted me. When I knew there were shameful things I was involved with because I was an illegitimate child. No other man wanted me, no father claimed me. I was supposed to be happy and grateful. I was marked and reminded of it everything someone called my full name at school, or I wrote it on homework. Even though the first year of school, kindergarten, I started out as Kimberly Coleman somewhere along the line, my Mom wanted me to start signing my name Kim Taylor. She had a new name through marriage and wanted me to have a fresh start too.
When I was able to move away, the first thing I did, I changed back to a Coleman.
To me, it felt like taking off dirty, stinky clothes, clothes that I had been in for to long. I was glad to get them off of me. To get clean and wear the clothes I wanted. That hadn’t been touched by him.