Why I wanted to change my name.

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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.

11 thoughts on “Why I wanted to change my name.

  1. We live in a reverse situation a bit, my husband’s grandfather molested his family members, then when I got married we I decided to take my husbands name, whichever one he wanted, he had to choose from his father’s name who had abandoned him at 1 year old, or his mother’s name who had always been there doing the work of raising him, but unfortunately, it was from her father who molested other family members. My name was from my grandfather who is a good man as far as I know, but it came from his “father” who he hated, who was actually possibly not my biological great grandfather, and either way, left my grandfather’s mother and remarried and had another family. I knew about the abuse when we changed our name, but in my mind, we are our own family, and we chose the name specifically to honor my husband’s single mother. I did give my son my old name because it made my dad so happy that the “family name” had an heir. Even though “the family name” isn’t even our biological family, since it is Chinese and we tested more Japanese by DNA… but the name KAM I took to stand for Kyara and Milo, my two kids, since they are the total decendents of our branch of the family anyways. And I defined values to the name, kindness, assertiveness and mindfullness so that for my daughter who doesn’t have the name, she has the values. Sure we have two different last names, but what is most important is that we are united in our hearts and values. I’m glad you were able to shed the old name, I actually need to do that with my first name to feel complete. Naming yourself is one of the days of Kwanzaa (the second), self-determination or Kujichagulia, no matter how it’s done it’s a powerful thing to creating a new mental and physical identity. 🌸

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    • kimmysurviving

      I love your understanding of how important naming is, where it comes from and the people associated with it carries so much emotional history. Your explanation of how you chose your name to me signifies taking power and control back. I know very little about Chinese or Japanese culture in regards to naming but it seems to be even more significant to decide against a long tradition of naming. I am so glad you responded with your information!! Thank you for adding your voice to those of us who are speaking out.

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  2. Glad to run into your blog. I did not get a conviction against my dad because of statute of limitations. I am married and no longer carry the name of my father. If I had gotten a conviction I would have come out publicly I think. Now I just want to be someone new. Changing my name had crossed my mind… But instead I will probably hide under an internet alias… Again, I am Glad to find your blog.

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  3. lizel

    i agree, you are very courageous. i can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. i am also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and my grandfather was my abuser. we shared the same birthday and i used to celebrate my birthday every year with him because my family thought that we had a special bond because of our shared birthday. as i grew older i found more and more excuses not to do it, and now i no longer celebrate my birthday with him.

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    • kimmysurviving

      Thank you for replying, I don’t know what it’s like to share a birthday with an abuser. Bad enough to be forced to share our houses, our childhood, our bodies. Can you tell me how you took back your birthday?

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  4. kimmysurviving

    I am sorry that I don’t know your story of being abused so I have a question if you are willing to share a bit more, did you have your abusers name as your last name? If so, did it bother you while you were growing up? or later?

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    • Kim, I was abused from birth until I was 17 years old. I did write a book about it. If you would like to read it, I will be offering a free download for Kindle next month. http://www.johndmoore.org. But I always had a difficult time moving on with my fathers name. I was actually named after him which made it even more difficult. So the name change was very significant.

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  5. Before we were married, my wife and I talked about me taking her name. We both agreed it would be good. But her father was old fashion and we knew he would not go for it. so it was the same old name for me.
    When I began writing the book, it was many years ago and we still had children in school and we did not want to change the name while they were in school. Just more confusion for everyone that way. Once our last graduated HS, we made the decision to change our name. Our son decided he wanted to change his as well.
    So the day came and I received the notice from the court that my name had been legally changed and at first it really didn’t hit. But then as time went on it really sank in that I was now just me. There was nothing hanging on to me and I finally became just me. The name i had was not a name you spoke in the area I grew up in. When I would go back there for one reason or another, I was careful not to say the name for fear of the looks and attitude.
    I now have a new name and anew life. Not the new life because of the name, but it helps quite a bit. If getting away from the stigma of a name will help to get moving on a road towards normalcy, then go for it. The way I look at it is, if it makes you happy and does you a whole lot of good, then go for it. Its your life, live it the way you want to.

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  6. Michele Morrison

    Makes sense to me….another strategy for trying to swim free of your horror and grief. A simple step to change a name (sort of!?) and if only touching the surface, it has to mean so much. Good for you!

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