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Sexual Abuse from an Authority Figure

Trigger warning: This post contains the subjects of sexual assault, and abuse.

I have been dreading telling this story for many reasons. I am a private person when it comes to my struggles, especially involving my PTSD. I don’t mind talking to a select couple of people, but beyond that I am very anxious about it. However, if my personal experiences can reach even one person and provide comfort, and to make them feel they are not alone, then it is worth it. If there are any derogatory comments, I will delete them. Any victim-blaming or defending this man will absolutely not be tolerated.

Photo by Engin Akyurt Unsplash
Photo by Engin Akyurt Unsplash

I have had many traumatic events in my life, so my PTSD is chronic. I am in regular therapy, which is very helpful. Like the rise and fall of the tides, my PTSD symptoms come and go depending on the events in my life. The tide goes down when my stress level goes down, and when the stress level rises so do my symptoms -I am also triggered easier when I’m stressed.

I have chronic health issues as well, and I have had/do have several doctors with different specialties. I become extremely anxious before any doctor’s appointment, even my regular doctors.

I had chronic pain in both of my hips, the left one more than the other, and no one would actually do an MRI with contrast to figure out what was wrong. I went to two different Orthopedic doctors, and they repeatedly injected both hips with cortisone, calling it hip bursitis. In 2010, I heard about an ortho who actually listened to his patients, and I was impressed after one visit. He ordered an MRI with contrast, and diagnosed me with a labral tear in my left hip. We scheduled surgery, and a few weeks later I had my first hip surgery. It went very well, and a couple of months later I felt so much better. About six months after my surgery, I was goofing around, dancing. I felt and heard a snap. I went back to see the ortho. I was on crutches, because every time I would walk I could feel loose pieces moving around in the joint, and they would get caught as I moved my leg. He advised we wait a few weeks to see if it resolved. It didn’t resolve, and he ordered another MRI. All of the cartilage in that joint crumbled like a cookie. We scheduled another surgery to remove all of the fragments. Once he cleaned out the fragments, my joint was bone on bone. I was on crutches for months, when he suggested his colleague do a total hip replacement so my quality of life improved.

Fast forward several years. I heard something in passing about a doctor- my doctor- eas accused of removing his glove and fondling his female patients while they were anesthetized. Hospital staff witnessed his behavior, and he was still employed with the hospital. This doctor touched multiple patients ranging in age from 13 to 50. People witnessed this and did not stop it. It is possible those employees were fearful of repercussions for outing a doctor. As a survivor, I feel very strongly if something happens that you witness, and you are complacent you are part of the problem. If we do not call it out, things will never change.

An assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, Mark E. Dietrich received his medical degree. He also received a law degree from University of Nebraska College of law. He completed a residency program at the University of Nebraska/Creighton University Health Foundation in 2006, and then had an orthopedic sports medicine fellowship in Minneapolis in 2007. He was a board-certified ortho surgeon. He was a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, American Ortho Society for Sports Medicine, Nebraska Orthopedic Society, Nebraska Medical Association and Nebraska State Bar Association. He did not look like a monster, he looked like an upstanding member of the community.

In early 2017, the Omaha Police Department began investigating Dietrich for inappropriately touching his patients. The allegations were that he fondled and groped the breasts and vaginas of anesthetized patients. It is also alleged that he was “also a sexual predator.” Despite the allegations against him, NMC refused to suspend his privileges. They did not prevent him from accessing anesthetized patients, or restrict him from operating on people. December 1, 2017, Dietrich performed knee surgery on patient, A.W. while she was anesthetized. Another employee was in the operating room with additional NMC staff members. That employee said he removed a glove and touched her vagina. These details were not included in the patient’s chart, and the hospital never notified her.

Nebraska Medical Center’s Motion to Dismiss, Filing 40, was granted. A.W.’s claims against Nebraska Medical Center for vicarious liability, tortious conduct and fraudulent concealment were dismissed with prejudice.

Dietrich is no longer associated with the hospital, but the lawsuit claims he stayed for months after he was witnessed touching patients. The last thing I read stated he was pursuing a pharmacy license. I personally feel he should never be allowed to practice in the medical community in any way whatsoever.

Photo by Caroline Hernand Unsplash

“Dietrich is no longer associated with the hospital, but the lawsuit claims he stayed for months after warning signs appeared.

A records search under Dietrich’s name found a lawsuit filed six months before the patient’s surgery that accuses him of fondling a different female patient under anesthesia.

That should have been a red flag, Chaloupka said.

“Because of pending litigation, we cannot talk further about the circumstances,” Nebraska Medical Center said in a statement. “Nebraska Medicine holds physicians and staff to the highest professional standards and the safety of our patients is our top priority.”

Per Channel Seven: Nebraska doctor accused of inappropriately touching patient under anesthesia (wwnytv.com)

More from that story, click on the links below.

When I heard that one of my doctors, a surgeon no less, was accused of assaulting more than one patient, I was shaken. As a survivor it is extremely important to my mental health that I feel I can trust my gut. The problem was, there were no red flags with this guy. I felt safe. I will never know if he violated me. I will never know what he actually did while I was unconscious. It’s irrelevant. I will never be able to prove it didn’t happen. I have had one surgery since I found out (with another doctor), and I was so anxious before and afterwards. I was terrified to discuss it when I went to the hospital, but I forced myself to tell the nurse who took care of me in recovery.

I had another bad experience with another doctor after I found out about Dietrich. I have been seeing this specialist for a couple of years. He is much older, and seems very distinguished. A few months ago during one of my regular visits with him, as he moved my joints, and touched some of my muscles, one of his hands brushed against my vagina. I blew it off as an accident, even though it twisted my stomach into knots. It was probably just an accident. He is so nice, so I’m sure he didn’t mean to. Three months later, I was back for my routine visit. I reassured myself, dismissing how it made me feel. Holding my breath, I leaned back on the exam table, praying he would not repeat what happened before. Just like the previous visit, his hand brushed against my vagina again. How do I explain this away again, I thought as I grabbed my stuff to leave. Could it have been an accident twice? How? My stomach ached, telling me what I already knew, what he did was wrong. When I told my therapist, I excused it. When I asked for her opinion, she said, “I think you are explaining away abuse.” I know another patient of his personally, and he has never checked her legs in the same way he did mine (she said it was because she is old and overweight; HER WORDS, NOT MINE!). I don’t think that it is about appearance at all. I think it is a power thing, nothing to do with looks! This is one of the ONLY doctors who has cared about my quality of life. He is one of the only doctors in the span of 15 years who has treated me like a human rather than an anxious woman.

Because of this abusive behavior I feel like I’m going to throw up during every doctor appointment. Because of someone in a position of power, I was left to again doubt my own gut.

When I move to a different state, I will only see female doctors, and until then I will not see any doctor alone. I will try harder to trust myself, and when I am unable, I will ask for a friend or family member to be a sounding board. These are ways I can take my power back. I am NOT a victim, I am a survivor. By sharing my story I am asking you to take yours back as well.

Links for details regarding Dr. Dietrick:

Accused Omaha doctor under investigation for two years, but no charges filed (wowt.com)

Teen says accused Omaha doctor groped her during surgery (wowt.com)

Nebraska doctor accused of inappropriately touching patient under anesthesia (wwnytv.com)

Lawsuit alleges that former Nebraska Medicine doctor inappropriately touched patient under anesthesia | State & Regional | kearneyhub.com

A.W. v. NEBRASKA MEDICAL | No. 8:19-CV-342. … | 20200517266| Leagle.com

Woman sues hospital, Omaha doctor, alleging he groped her while she was anesthetized | Crime and Courts | journalstar.com

A.W. v. NEBRASKA MEDICAL | No. 8:19-CV-342. … | 20200517266| Leagle.com

Hospital Escapes Claims Based on Surgeon’s Fondling of Patient (bloomberglaw.com)

Feature Photo by Jacqueline Day, Unsplash

Trish Eklund’s first book, Abandoned Nebraska: Echoes of Our Past, was released in November of 2018. Her second photography book, Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Nebraska: Decaying in the Heartland will be released on February 22, 2021. She is finishing up her third book; Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Kansas: Home is Where the Heart is. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, Raw Abandoned, ListVerse, Nature Takes Over, Grime Scene Investigators, and Pocket Abandoned. She has a photo on the cover of: Fine Lines Summer 2020: Volume 29 Issue 2. She is the owner and creator of the photography website, Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz, and another essay in another anthology: Voices of the Plains Volume III by Nebraska Writer’s Guild and Julie Haase. Her writing has been featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Plus, Making Midlife Matter, and Her View From Home. She owns, moderates, and writes for the blog: Trigger Warning: Surviving Abuse. She has written four young adult novels and is hard at work on her first adult novel.

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Older Men

Most people have heard about the Evan Rachel Wood, and three other women who have come forward against Brian Warner (Marilyn Manson). She stated that he groomed her, and gradually abused her. More regarding the allegations in the link below.

Evan Rachel Wood and Others Make Allegations of Abuse Against Marilyn Manson | Vanity Fair

The entire thing reminds me of a toxic relationship I had at age 19. I had just gotten out of a dangerous situation, and was still mentally healing from it. I worked in a small café lunch and dinner shifts. There was an older man in his 40’s who frequented the restaurant, and usually sat in my section. He was a massage therapist, and we would often have great conversations. He asked me if I wanted to hang out, assuring me he did not want to date. Every single time he saw me he flirted, and had intense conversations with me. He spoke of his daughter (who was my age, and she was not able to see her father), his profession, and our little mountain town. Looking back now, I can see the situation through different eyes. He was grooming me, making me feel comfortable with him. It’s so hard to explain, he made me feel special and beautiful, while at the same time he was a father figure. I went to his house a few times, and it was always the same. He gave me a massage, but he did not give me a professional massage. He touched me in other places, and did other things to me. He always said, “we shouldn’t be doing this. I shouldn’t be doing this.” Yet, he always did the things he should not have done again. I wanted to like him, but every time I was around him (especially alone with him), I felt uncomfortable. I also hated how I felt about myself when we were together. I knew something was wrong by the sinking feeling, but felt powerless. I had already been through so much trauma that on some level I thought I deserved it. We did not see each other for long, but when I think back, I can remember how disgusting and powerless I felt. I was a legal adult…but a forty-something year-old man should not be interested in a 19-year-old. I am 47, and I cannot even fathom pursuing a 19-year-old.

The Brian Warner (Marilyn Manson) accusations are upsetting. He was 36 when he started grooming Evan Rachel Wood at age 18. I totally and completely believe the women who have come forward. I deleted all of his albums from my music library. Not too long ago, Judge Cavanagh had allegations against him, and so many people defended him. Another is Elvis Presley. Would you give your 14-year-old the thumbs up to marry a grown man? I’m not talking about two kids in high school together when one is 16 and the other 18. Elvis liked girls between 14-15, and was rumored to be obsessed with virginity. They are both despicable. The link with more information about Elvis is below.

Elvis Presley Was “Obsessed With Virginity”, And Had 14-Year-Old Girls On Tour, Book Claims (shared.com)

The best way to move on from the darkness is to shine a light on it. We MUST talk about these things.

***Feature Photo by Martino Pietropoli

***Second Photo by Eric Ward

Trish Eklund’s first book, Abandoned Nebraska: Echoes of Our Past, was released in November of 2018. Her second photography book, Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Nebraska: Decaying in the Heartland will be released on February 22, 2021. She is finishing up her third book; Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Kansas: Home is Where the Heart is. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, Raw Abandoned, ListVerse, Nature Takes Over, Grime Scene Investigators, and Pocket Abandoned. She has a photo on the cover of: Fine Lines Summer 2020: Volume 29 Issue 2. She is the owner and creator of the photography website, Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz, and another essay in another anthology: Voices of the Plains Volume III by Nebraska Writer’s Guild and Julie Haase. Her writing has been featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Plus, Making Midlife Matter, and Her View From Home. She owns, moderates, and writes for the blog: Trigger Warning: Surviving Abuse. She has written four young adult novels and is hard at work on her first adult novel.

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Dos and Don’ts

In my previous post I wrote about male intimidation. I think part of the time, people don’t intentionally intimidate others. In many cases, they are unaware (mostly men) because most have never had to worry about feeling unsafe.

I previously stated I receive friend requests, emails, and private messages from random men I have never met. None of them were even friends of friends. I understand that as a writer and photographer it opens the door for people to reach out to me. I love hearing from people who share my passion for words, art, and abandoned places. There is a fine line, and people need to understand that. One man attended an event where I spoke about my book. He was the first person to arrive, and he told me he was there solely to see me. A few months later, he sent me an email asking if I could meet him in person to discuss publishing and how to move forward in his own work. I explained I was not comfortable meeting anyone I don’t know in person, especially while alone. I offered to discuss these things via email, over the phone, or even on video. I never heard from him again, which leads me to believe he had other intentions.

I have had others contact me and ask me to meet with them in person. They have asked if I would go exploring abandoned places with them. I assume most men think once I meet them I would feel more comfortable with them. The truth is due to a lifetime of trauma I am only marginally comfortable alone with the men I already know (excluding my husband, I am comfortable with him), and I will never be comfortable alone around men I don’t know, even acquaintances. The person who sexually abused me as a kid was a close family member, and that was only the first person who assaulted me. So if I learned at an early age someone close could violate me, why would I think I can trust strangers? Does that make any sense? No.

I had a business meeting with a professional who was going to display my photography at his place of business. The first time I met him (he was in his 50’s, and he wore a wedding ring) he told me we should go to lunch sometime. He asked many personal questions, and kept standing extremely close to me. I tried to explain it away to myself, but he made me very uncomfortable. The second time I went into his business, he acted the same way. The last time I went into his business, he told me how great I looked. I’m pretty sure he would not have told another man how good he looked.

I think we have been conditioned as a society to excuse certain behaviors. It starts when we are children. When a boy picks at us, such as pulling our hair, tries to touch us or tease us, people say, maybe he likes you. Little boys don’t always know how to express their feelings. This is bullshit! We need to teach kids that if someone makes them uncomfortable, it is safe to tell us. When we excuse this behavior we are reinforcing this of bad behavior pattern. I have heard men and women say, boys will be boys, and that is also bullshit. Another example of excusing bad behavior is if an older man says or does inappropriate things, people say, he’s a harmless, dirty old man. There is no such thing. I have had older male friends (who I met through other friends or through work), and none of them made me feel uncomfortable. They did not say anything inappropriate to me, so that statement is just another excuse.

What NOT to do:

Comment on how good a woman looks in a business meeting. If you would not say it to a male colleague, don’t say it about or to a female.

Stand closer than three feet apart.

Ask a woman you do not know or even one you don’t know well to do anything alone with you. I realize some women are more comfortable around people they don’t know, but pay attention to what she says, and her body language.

Walk up to a woman’s car while she is in the vehicle alone. This happens to me quite often. I think many are just oblivious.

Friend request someone you don’t know (especially when the person is not a friend of a friend).

Send someone you don’t know messages unless about business. As a photographer and writer, I am okay with messages regarding my content.

Stand closely behind a woman anywhere for any reason. Think about how it makes her feel.

Follow a woman on foot or in a vehicle. Women walk to and from their cars with a key sticking out of their fingers in case they need to defend themselves. We walk with mace, tasers, and other weapons. Every single woman feels unsafe when walking, especially after dark. We always watch for signs of danger.

Follow a woman around a store, the gym, the mall. Just don’t. We have to go and do all of the same things you do, and we just want to do them in peace. Imagine you were having the worst day ever, and you are out running errands because you had to. Then imagine being stared at the entire time, having people comment on the way you are dressed or your appearance in general. You want to be left alone, but you can’t even do the most basic things without being harassed. We feel this way when we work, shop, exercise, pick up groceries and prescriptions, when we are driving in our car, walking to our cars, when we are home alone, even in our own homes or on our computers.

Honk at at a woman because you think she is attractive, especially when she is on foot.

Whistle and/or shout at a woman because you think she is attractive.

Talk about a woman’s body in a professional setting.

If you ask a woman out and she says no, stop asking!

If one of your friends is being an asshole and treating a woman/girl inappropriately, it is YOUR job to step in.

If you have friends or acquaintances who are creepy and don’t treat women well, stop talking to them! If you associate with creeps, you ARE a creep!

Stare. Once we notice you staring, STOP! That is so uncomfortable for us.

If you step up and treat a woman decently, never expect a pat on the back. It is not our job to point out when you do the right thing.

Don’t joke about women. Example: women belong in the kitchen. Darn female drivers! That’s just like a woman. Etc.

Touch a woman you don’t know in any way! When in a relationship with a woman who has been traumatized, ask before you touch her, especially from behind.

Try to scare a woman who has a traumatic history.

When in a conversation with a woman, don’t interrupt them or talk over them. It makes us feel you do not value what we have to say. It also makes us feel unheard.

Don’t send photos of your penis unless she asks for them. Seriously.

Never ask a woman to smile. We don’t ask men to smile. If we don’t feel like smiling we don’t have to!

Don’t tell a woman to calm down. Again, we can feel or react however we want.

Don’t call a woman crazy especially in a business setting.

Women do not owe you anything. We don’t even owe you respect if you don’t show us respect. You are not entitled to anything.

A woman can say no anytime! No matter what has happened prior to that moment.

Never start doing anything sexual to a woman while she sleeps, especially if she has a traumatic history!

If a woman is really intoxicated in any way, or asleep she cannot consent to sex. Back off!

When you feel guilty after messing up, don’t expect the woman to make you feel better. Be vulnerable with her.

Never assume based upon appearance.

Never use your power in the the professional world to get a woman’s attention.

Don’t tell children it is okay if another child is touching them or bullying them. It is NOT okay for a boy to act this way because he likes a girl or when roles are reversed. End the whole, boys will be boys mentality.

Do not call crude talk locker room talk. I know many men who would NEVER speak this way about women. It also doesn’t matter if a guy talks about women this way in front of them or behind their backs, either way you are putting down women and it is not okay.

What to do:

Behave professionally in a business relationship. A good rule of thumb is if you would not say it to a member of your family or to whatever sex you are not attracted to, you should NOT say it.

Ask before you touch a woman. When in a relationship with survivors of trauma even a loving touch can be a trigger.

Be aware of your power as a man, and use it to protect her, stand up for her, advocate for her.

If you are walking or jogging outside, and you come across a woman, cross the road.

If you see an attractive woman, it’s okay to simply say hello or smile, and then move on. If she is interested she will reciprocate. If not, it is not her job to stroke your ego. Would you behave this way toward another man? Probably not.

If you overhear another man interrupting a woman, step in and tell him to let her finish what she was saying.

Watch a woman’s body language. Better yet, buy a book on body language, study it, and then watch to see when you are making them uncomfortable.

Rather than compliment her appearance, compliment her sense of humor, her intelligence, or creative talent. This should start with our daughters, don’t fixate only on looks.

Treat women the way you want your mother, grandmother, sisters, and daughters to be treated.

If you see another man treating a woman poorly, step in!!! This includes locker room talk.

Treat men and women the same in a business setting. Don’t diminish her capabilities because she is female.

I also must add I know so many amazing, respectful men and boys. Thank you so much for being great, and holding people accountable for their actions.

**Feature photo by Jakob Owens**

**Other photo by Sam Burriss**

Trish Eklund’s first book, Abandoned Nebraska: Echoes of Our Past, was released in November of 2018. Her second photography book, Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Nebraska: Decaying in the Heartland will be released on February 22, 2021. She is finishing up her third book; Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Kansas: Home is Where the Heart is. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, Raw Abandoned, ListVerse, Nature Takes Over, Grime Scene Investigators, and Pocket Abandoned. She has a photo on the cover of: Fine Lines Summer 2020: Volume 29 Issue 2. She is the owner and creator of the photography website, Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz, and another essay in another anthology: Voices of the Plains Volume III by Nebraska Writer’s Guild and Julie Haase. Her writing has been featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Plus, Making Midlife Matter, and Her View From Home. She owns, moderates, and writes for the blog: Trigger Warning: Surviving Abuse. She has written four young adult novels and is hard at work on her first adult novel.

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Male Intimidation

Male Intimidation is something I have fought my whole life. It seems like when you are a survivor of any kind of abuse or assault you are vulnerable to more abuse. Every single woman I know has had some kind of sexual harassment or abuse. I also know some men who have endured sexual abuse, so this is not only a female issue.

I travel alone quite a bit for my photography and writing. I get really anxious every single time I have to stop for gas or to use the bathroom. I feel better when I take one of my dogs along, but it doesn’t completely relieve my anxiety. Truck stops especially make me nervous. I have had men approach me even with my lab!

I took one trip alone with my teenaged daughter. The worst was the first night we camped in our van at an RV site, and we arrived as it was getting dark. While we were still outside I noticed a young guy walking by without a shirt. He not only looked at us, but stared blatantly even after we noticed him, without looking away. Once passed, he turned back and continually looked at us as he walked away. I had my daughter go inside, and we remained there until the next morning. I had trouble going to sleep because all I could think about was the two of us being alone with no way to defend ourselves. The next morning while we were packing everything up, that same guy walked back by, and did the EXACT same thing. We left shortly thereafter. Once out taking photos of places, I was honked at by multiple truckers driving by, and a couple of them slowed way down like they were going to stop. On another trip, this time all alone, I was driving on the interstate on my way home. I had my window down slightly, listening to music, and was just concentrating on driving. A large extended cab truck pulling a boat pulled up next to me in the fast lane. When I glanced up, I see a guy hanging out of his window pointing a phone at me. There were several other men in the vehicle, all looking, waving, and yelling at me. He continued pointing the phone at me until after they passed me. From then on, every time I stopped I looked to make sure their truck wasn’t there.

Another time I was out exploring, while both of my daughters waiting in the car, a man pulled up directly behind me, got out and rushed toward me. He was trying to tell me he owned part of the property, and he wanted to give me permission to hop the fence and photograph it. While it was a very nice gesture, my PTSD symptoms were triggered, and it took a bit to calm down.

My husband, my youngest daughter, and I stopped somewhere on a family trip to see my other daughter. While my husband was inside, I noticed an older man (I would guess in his 60’s) sat on a bench in front of the building, chugging whiskey out of an enormous jug. With a sneer on his face, he pointed his phone back and forth between my daughter and I. I called my husband and asked him to return immediately. The man also pointed his phone toward other women who were walking in. When he returned, I told him what was happening, and asked him to move to another parking spot where the guy could no longer see us. I also asked him to go complain. My daughter and I stayed in the car, and I started a conversation about it with her. I first second-guessed myself, and she did the same, stating maybe he was filming himself or perhaps he wasn’t trying to intimidate us. Then I realized I was setting an example for her about how to advocate for herself. She does not want to be rude or mean, and always wants to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I told her that sure there was a chance that he was oblivious, but my gut screamed at me he had ill intentions. I explained that she should never worry about being mean or rude to anyone who she felt intimidated by. I think women especially need to get more comfortable with putting their safety first, even when it requires them to be rude or “mean” to the person making them uncomfortable. I told her to ALWAYS listen to her gut, and not to doubt herself. Often what we are feeling doesn’t always make sense, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

The last trip I took, when I returned to my car from the rest stop bathroom, I noticed a man standing near my car. I got in, and locked the door. He continued standing on the driver’s side in my blind spot, just behind the car so I could not pull out. I wasn’t sure if he was just oblivious or if he knew what he was doing. He walked right by the driver’s door, and looked in right at me. Once again, it took a while to get out of panic mode.

I also receive frequent friend requests, and messages from random men I don’t know. One guy wanted to meet me at an abandoned asylum, and I told him ONLY if my husband joined. This man also tried to talk to me about his marriage (at the time I wrote several articles about my divorce), and I encouraged him to work it out with his wife, and to try to keep his family together. I never heard from him again, although I DID hear from his WIFE! She thanked me for having the integrity to encourage him to try and work it out. She also said he reached out to another woman when he didn’t receive the answer he wanted from me, and cheated with her on his wife. On my next post, I will list some dos and don’ts about how to approach women, and I will elaborate more on the online experiences I have had.

I would love to publish your story, whether anonymous or with your name. Begin healing by breaking your silence.

**Feature Photo by Adam Cybulski**

**Other photo by Christian Holzinger**

November of 2018. Her second photography book, Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Nebraska: Decaying in the Heartland will be released on February 22, 2021. She is finishing up her third book; Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Kansas: Home is Where the Heart is. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, Raw Abandoned, ListVerse, Nature Takes Over, Grime Scene Investigators, and Pocket Abandoned. She has a photo on the cover of: Fine Lines Summer 2020: Volume 29 Issue 2. She is the owner and creator of the photography website, Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz, and another essay in another anthology: Voices of the Plains Volume III by Nebraska Writer’s Guild and Julie Haase. Her writing has been featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Plus, Making Midlife Matter, and Her View From Home. She owns, moderates, and writes for the blog: Trigger Warning: Surviving Abuse. She has written four young adult novels and is hard at work on her first adult novel.

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I Showered With The Curtain Open Today

*Feature Photo by Claudia Back

*Second Photo by Steiner-Engeland

I don’t remember the exact moment I lost the ability to handle everything emotionally. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder caused by a traumatic event, and it never completely goes away. PTSD is the panther crouching in the shadows, waiting for the exact instant you are at your weakest to pounce.

Anything traumatic can cause PTSD. For me, the initial cause was childhood trauma, compounded with early adulthood traumas, and then as I got older and other events occurred, my threshold for coping became smaller with each traumatic experience.

When my symptoms are at their worst, I wait too long to use the restroom if my only options are public restrooms with stalls and no lock on the main door. I become so anxious about walking out and finding someone waiting for me, I just wait to go. At home, I lock the bathroom door and shower with the curtain open, with my back against the wall. I need to be able to see what is happening every second. As I walk into a new place, I make a mental note of all exits, every seat option against a wall (so I can see people come and go). If walking or standing alone in a line, I am extremely uncomfortable with people standing close behind me, especially men. There are certain movements and touches that also trigger symptoms, depending on my environment. Many of us are also triggered by certain types of sounds, language, and smells as well. I can go months without many symptoms, then I can suddenly have them all the time.

When I am already stressed to the maximum, something minor might be the thing that triggers the symptoms. Maybe someone yells at me (and it could even be in traffic), which is something I really don’t respond well to, and my body sends my mind the fight or flight signal. My stomach ties itself into knots, my heart thuds wildly, and my clothes become damp with sweat. Every movement around me feels hostile, and I feel like I need to get away. Now! Each little noise, every little branch that scrapes against the house, and every footfall is coming toward me. Nothing is logical anymore. That part of my brain has gone to sleep, and telling me to calm down will not be processed. There are other times when I am unable to deal with reality at all, so I completely detach — my brain just shuts itself off, similar to a computer rebooting itself. I want it to work, but I have to wait for it to restart itself when it’s ready in its own time. If things are really bad, the insomnia, nightmares, and flashbacks return.

As I stand in the grocery store, feeling the breath of the stranger behind me on my neck, every hair on my body rises like antennae. The cashier smiles at me, oblivious. The man behind me takes a step close enough that I feel the heat from his body and the graze of his jeans on my bare leg. As I swipe my card through the machine, my hand trembles so violently, my card almost tumbles to the floor. Flashes careen through my mind. Ripping. Tearing. Being held down. Hot tears. The cashier asks another question, but I don’t hear it because the stranger’s leg continues brushing against mine. The rancid alcohol on his breath envelops me, and bile rises to my throat. The second my receipt is printed, my legs move toward the door, and my shaking hands tightly grip the grocery bags at my sides. I don’t remember if I grabbed my debit card or if I even have my purse, nor do I care. I no longer see the other customers sailing past with their full carts. The only thing I know is I have to get to my vehicle right now before I am hurt again.

The next time you come across a man or woman who appears to be agitated, irritable, panicked, terrified, angry, or detached, remember we can never assume to know another person’s situation by appearance. Just beneath the surface is a woman feeling her attacker’s hands on her; a man hearing bullets whistle past his head; a woman screaming for help as her child takes his last breath in the back seat of a crumpled car on the side of a highway; or a child who has been tormented day after day by bullies. As survivors of trauma, we are not always in control over our own bodies or brains, but it does not make us weak. It makes us human.

Trauma strips away your life one piece at a time, leaving you ragged and scarred. When the emotional threads that hold us together snap, they can be woven back together. The pattern might not quite look the same, but it will eventually be whole again. My scars are a daily reminder of how lucky I am for everything I do have.

*Reprinted with permission from Her View From Home.

This essay is also in an anthology: Voices of the Plains Volume III by Nebraska Writer’s Guild and Julie Haase

Trish Eklund’s first book, Abandoned Nebraska: Echoes of Our Past, was released in November of 2018. Her second photography book, Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Nebraska: Decaying in the Heartland will be released on February 22, 2021. She is finishing up her third book; Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Kansas: Home is Where the Heart is. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, Raw Abandoned, ListVerse, Nature Takes Over, Grime Scene Investigators, and Pocket Abandoned. She has a photo on the cover of: Fine Lines Summer 2020: Volume 29 Issue 2. She is the owner and creator of the photography website, Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz, and another essay in another anthology: Voices of the Plains Volume III by Nebraska Writer’s Guild and Julie Haase. Her writing has been featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Plus, Making Midlife Matter, and Her View From Home. She owns, moderates, and writes for the blog: Trigger Warning: Surviving Abuse. She has written four young adult novels and is hard at work on her first adult novel.

My First Story

I am a survivor of child sexual abuse, rape, harassment, attempted rape, gang violence, mental abuse with threats of physical abuse, and I have chronic health issues. I have shared slivers of my experiences here and there, but with the current state of our society, I felt it was time to start a blog to share my experiences, and how I cope daily with PTSD.

In addition to sharing my own experiences, I welcome your personal stories, both anonymous and public. I welcome stories of abuse; sexual abuse, Sexual harassment, domestic violence, mental abuse, and day to day coping with PTSD. All survivors are welcome; men, women, trans, and non binary. This is a safe place to share to not only help others cope, but also to release our stories to help with the healing process.

Trigger Warning (talk of childhood sexual abuse):

I was molested starting at the age of six by a close extended family member. I do not remember all of the details, which I feel is a blessing. What I do remember is him performing oral sex on me, and me to him. Later in life I found out another family member was abused by him for 16 years. He also was very cruel to animals (torturing and killing them), and sometimes in front of the other family member. There was also another side to him, which I feel is so important to share. We were taught to avoid strangers, and still are. The invisible monster hiding in the bushes waiting to pounce on us, but not everyone learns that the closest people to us and our families are the ones to watch out for. They don’t look like monsters, they are excellent at wearing the masks of admirable people. The person who abused me was also loving, and made me feel special (outside of the abuse). These people are coaches, ministers, teachers, parents, grandparents, siblings. They are very good at grooming and slowly sneaking the abuse in. Think of a boiling pot of water, and dropping a frog in–he would feel the heat immediately and jump out. However, if you put it in cool water and slowly turn it up, it wouldn’t notice the water was hot until it was too late. This is what most of them do, they sneak the abuse in gradually.

The abuse has long-term affects that last a lifetime. It makes it hard to trust yourself and others. When you are sexually abused as a child it completely changes the course of your life. It changes the way you love, and when you are older it changes how you look at sex. I will save that for another post.

If this happened to you or a loved one, I am so sorry. You and your story matter. I wish you much love and healing.

Trish

**Feature Image by Danny Lines**

**Second Image by Richard James**

Trish Eklund’s first book, Abandoned Nebraska: Echoes of Our Past, was released in November of 2018. Her second photography book, Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Nebraska: Decaying in the Heartland will be released on February 22, 2021. She is finishing up her third book; Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Kansas: Home is Where the Heart is. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, Raw Abandoned, ListVerse, Nature Takes Over, Grime Scene Investigators, and Pocket Abandoned. She has a photo on the cover of: Fine Lines Summer 2020: Volume 29 Issue 2. She is the owner and creator of the photography website, Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz, and another essay in another anthology: Voices of the Plains Volume III by Nebraska Writer’s Guild and Julie Haase. Her writing has been featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Plus, Making Midlife Matter, and Her View From Home. She owns, moderates, and writes for the blog: Trigger Warning: Surviving Abuse. She has written four young adult novels and is hard at work on her first adult novel.